Gambia History

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Bank of The River Gambia has been inhabited for many centuries.

Hanno, The Carthaginean, referred to Gambia while writing about his voyage to West Africa in 470 B.C. It is known that between the 5th and 8th centuries most of the Senegambian Area came from the Sarahuley ethnic group, and those descendants can be found in The Gambia.

The Ghana Empire which had its capital in present day Mauritania, soon gave way to the Songhais, who latter became Muslims and promoted their new faith zealously.
Around the 13th century, however, Mandingoes and Susus' from the Futa Jallon Plateau had established themselves in what is now Mali, and from there controlled the whole of The Gambia Basin. The Gambia was then inhabited mainly by Wollofs on the Northern bank and Jolas on the southern bank of the River.
When the Mali Empire declined at the end of the 16th century, the Mandingo leaders retired to the Futa Jallon, but continued to have influence over the Casamance (Southern Senegal) and The Gambia until early in the 18th century. Later The Fula invaders penetrated the region. The Ancestors of the Fulas had come from Africa and earlier had founded the famous Emirates of' Northern Nigeria.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, there were protracted wars between the Islamic Marabouts and the Pagan Soninkis.

The British, who already established themselves at Banjul by this time, offered protection to the various chiefs during these conflicts, and through treaties, soon brought The Gambia region under their control.

Before the British, some Portuguese had come to The Gambia following the expeditions promoted by Prince Henry starting in 1455. They had introduced groundnuts, tie main cash crop of today, cotton, and some tropical fruits from Brazil. Their number, however, was never large and the, were soon absorbed by intermarriage.

The British started trading with the Gambians in 1587, and within a few decades had explored the River. They traded as business companies and ruled the area from their fort on James Island until 1765, when the Gambia was made a part of the British colony of SeneGambia with its headquarters at St. Louis.

When in 1807, slave trading was abolished, James Island was used to check and stop the illicit traffic in slaves.
In 1816, Captain Alexander Grant obtained the sandy bank of Banjul Island by a treaty from the Chief of Kombo and built the planned city of Bathurst, now renamed Banjul.
Bathurst already had a civilian population of 700 by 1818, the year that civil government was begun.

The Gambia was administered as a crown colony from Sierra Leone between 1821 and 1892, but since then Banjul (Bathurst) has been its capital.

The Gambia became independent in 1965 and five years later adopted a Republican Constitution