Spanish Guinea


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. Spanish Guinea is Number 125 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. Spanish Guinea (present-day Equatorial Guinea) was a small colony on the Gulf of Guinea, comprised of “Continental Guinea” on the African mainland, and “Insular Guinea” —the volcanic island of Fernando Po and a number of smaller isles. The islands had been claimed by the Portuguese already in the late-15th century, but were ceded to Spain in 1778 in exchange for territories in South America. Spain later extended control to adjacent mainland territories. In 1827 the Spanish were compelled to temporarily permit a British occupation of Fernando Po for the purpose of suppressing the slave trade. Spain began efforts to develop the colony from the 1840s onward, but met with limited success. The study notes that “Spanish writers are unsparing in their criticisms of the backward condition of the colony, but weak in suggestions of a positive and constructive character.” Among the factors hampering development was the prevalence of tropical diseases (malaria and sleeping sickness), which had taken a severe toll on the health of the indigenous population and hampered efforts to import workers from Spain. The study briefly discusses the main ethnic groups living in the colony, the Fang and the Bubi. Spanish Guinea gained independence as the Republic of Equatorial Guinea on October 12, 1968.

Last updated: March 24, 2015