Sierra Leone


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. Sierra Leone is Number 92 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. Sierra Leone was a British colony and protectorate, located on the Atlantic coast of Africa and bordered by French Guinea (present-day Guinea) and Liberia. British involvement in the territory went back to 1787−88, when philanthropists selected it as a home for freed African slaves and other blacks “who had fallen into destitution in the United Kingdom.” The name of the capital and largest city, Freetown, reflects this history. The section on social and political conditions ends with this set of general observations: “The principal features of Sierra Leone as a British colony may be summed up as follows. (1) It owes its origin entirely to philanthropy and peaceful cession, and is specially associated with the beginnings of the crusade against the slave trade and slavery. It has, therefore, a peculiar sentimental value in the eyes of a large number of British citizens…. (2) It possesses a fine harbor, which is half-way to the Cape [of Good Hope], and has been constituted as a fortified Imperial coaling station. (3) It is encircled by French territory, except on the side where it marches with Liberia…. But (4), though cut off from the Niger basin, it possesses sufficient back-country to make it, with its coast districts, valuable for commercial purposes….” The appendix contains passages from the treaties with France and Liberia delimiting borders, as well as tables with detailed economic statistics. Sierra Leone achieved its independence from the United Kingdom on April 27, 1961.

Last updated: March 24, 2015