In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Mauretania is Number 106 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. France asserted control over the large and sparsely populated territory north of the Senegal River by the 1890s and early 1900s. Known as Mauretania (present-day Mauritania), this territory was made part of French West Africa in 1904. “The great majority of the inhabitants of Mauretania are nomadic Moors, i.e., Arabs and Arabized Berbers,” the study notes, remarking on the impossibility of accurately estimating the size of the population, which one French report put at 600,000 and another at 250,000. Economic activities in the territory included the cultivation of crops along the Senegal River, the herding of sheep and cattle in the inland areas, and fishing in the abundant Atlantic waters. The study notes that caravan traffic was large and increasing, and describes the main caravan routes and tracks used for transport, chiefly by camels and oxen. “Horses have only a limited use in Mauretania,” it adds, “for near the river they are ruined by the tsetse, and, in most other parts, there is not enough water for them.”

Last updated: November 14, 2017