February 4, 2016

Portuguese 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. Portuguese Guinea is Number 118 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 contains chapters on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. Portuguese Guinea (present-day Guinea-Bissau) was a small colony located on the west coast of Africa, surrounded by the larger French colonies of Senegal to the north and French Guinea to the south. The Portuguese presence in the territory went back to the middle of the 15th century, when explorers sent from Portugal by Prince Henry the Navigator sailed southward along the coast of Africa. In the 17th century the colony became a major source of slaves for Brazil and the Spanish colonies of South America. The main ethnic groups are identified as the Fula (or Fulani), Balanta, and Mancanha. The study notes that the “soil is fertile, the country well-watered, and the agricultural possibilities of the colony are therefore good.” The crops produced included cocoa, cotton, ground nuts, cola nuts, maize, palm oil, rice, rubber, sugar cane, and tobacco. “Agriculture,” the study notes, “is an impossible occupation for Europeans, but, with the exception of a few tribes, the natives, especially the Biafadas, take to it naturally. They practice an extensive cultivation….” Portuguese Guinea declared its independence on September 24, 1973, which was universally recognized the following year after a military coup overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship.

French Guiana

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. French Guiana is Number 137 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. Situated on the northern coast of South America between Dutch Guiana (present-day Suriname) and Brazil, the colony of French Guiana had a diverse population that included aboriginal Indians of three main groups (Arawak, Carib, and Tupi), descendants of former slaves (including of the marrons, runaway slaves living in the interior of the country), and Europeans of French, English, Portuguese, Dutch, and German ancestry. The section on political history discusses the competition in the 17th and 18th centuries between the French, Dutch, and British for control of Cayenne Island, the historical core of the colony. After occupation by an Anglo-Portuguese force during the Napoleonic wars, the colony was restored to France, which  has ruled it ever since. In 1854 Cayenne became a French penal colony, the site of the notorious Devil’s Island where such famous prisoners as Captain Alfred Dreyfus were held. The total penal population in 1915 is given as 8,568. Gold was discovered in 1853, and gold mining was the colony’s chief industry. A table in the appendix lists the number of gold mining concessions by year in the period 1900‒15, their size, and the total annual production of gold in troy ounces and by value in pounds sterling. French Guiana is today an overseas department of France. It is home to the Guiana Space Center, operated by the French and European space agencies.

French Equatorial Africa

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. French Equatorial Africa is Number 108 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. French Equatorial Africa was an administrative division of the French Empire, established in 1910 under a governor-general responsible to the French authorities in Paris. It included the colonies of Middle Congo (the present-day Republic of the Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (the present-day Central African Republic). The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The section on political history recounts the key events by which France acquired this vast swathe of territory, the settlement of its borders with neighboring colonies controlled by other European powers, and the interactions between France and Germany, France and the United Kingdom, and France and Italy as they related to the territory. The economic section notes that the colonies that constituted French Equatorial Africa were relatively undeveloped, owing to both natural factors (few internal waterways, small population) and a lack of investment and other failures of French policy. Economic activity was dominated by 13 concessionaire companies that were mainly engaged in the extraction and export of animal and vegetable products. The chief exports in 1913 were rubber, wood (including tropical timbers such as ebony and mahogany), whale oil, and ivory.

French 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. French Guinea is Number 103 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 colony of French Guinea was established in the latter part of the 19th century as France acquired territories on the west coast of Africa by treaty with the local inhabitants and settled the boundaries of those territories with neighboring British (Sierra Leone) and Portuguese colonies (Portuguese Guinea, present-day Guinea-Bissau) and with the independent Republic of Liberia. In 1904 French Guinea became part of the Government-General of French West Africa. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, and economic conditions. (Social and political conditions are treated in Number 100 in the series, French West Africa.) The population of the colony for 1916 is given as an estimated 1,808,893, with the main ethnic groups being the Fula, Mandinka (i.e., Malinke), and Susu. The total European population was only 1,166. The economy of the colony was heavily based on the production of rubber, which accounted for 73 percent of exports in the period 1900‒1914. The appendix includes extracts from the main treaties defining the borders of the colony and tables with detailed trade statistics. French Guinea became the independent Republic of Guinea on October 2, 1958.

French Possessions in India

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. French Possessions in India is Number 77 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. In 1664 France under King Louis XIV established La Compagnie des Indes Orientales (The East India Company) for the purpose of founding French settlements and trading posts in India and competing for a share of the commerce of the subcontinent. French colonial efforts in India were never very successful, however, and by 1817, when the final territorial arrangements were made regarding the Établissements français de l’Inde (French  possessions in India), they consisted of just five small and widely scattered territories: Pondicherry, Karikal, Yanaon, Mahé, and Chandernagor. This study covers the physical and political geography of these territories, their political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The study estimates the total population of the territories as 266,828 in 1915. It states that in the past French India had experienced certain periods of prosperity, mainly as a result of trade, but it offers a pessimistic outlook for the future in view of the “insuperable difficulties arising from the geographical situation of these scattered territories.” In 1947 and 1954 France turned its Indian possessions over to the independent Republic of India.

French Morocco

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. French Morocco is Number 101 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 study can be read in conjunction with Number 122 in the series, Spanish Morocco. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The historical section gives a brief overview of Moroccan history from the Arab conquest of the seventh century, to the Berber dynasties of the 11th‒16th centuries, to the Sherifian dynasties of the 16th‒19th centuries, and concludes with the modern era beginning in 1830 with the French invasion of Algeria and spanning the period up to 1912 when French and Spanish protectorates were established in Morocco. The “Moroccan Question,” involving rivalry among the European powers for influence in the strategically important territory, is covered in detail. The study estimates the total population of Morocco at between 4 million and 6 million people, of which from 3.5 million to 5 million were living in French Morocco; 1 million in the Spanish Protectorate; and another 1 million in parts of Morocco not occupied by either European power. The main ethnic groups are listed as Berbers, Arabs, Jews, and several others. The study notes: “The determining factors of Moroccan history have always been its geography and ethnography. Its wide tracts of extremely fertile and easily cultivable soil have from the earliest times attracted invaders from the east, and still more from the deserts of the south. Its long coast-line, lying as the country does along two trade-routes—a Mediterranean and an Atlantic—threatened the security of European traders and voyagers for long years….” More recently, “reports of Morocco’s mineral resources excited the attention of competing Powers and stimulated international rivalry.”