1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/French Guinea
FRENCH GUINEA, a French colony in West Africa, formerly known as Rivières du Sud. It is bounded W. by the Atlantic, N. by Portuguese Guinea and Senegal, E. by Upper Senegal and the Ivory Coast, and S. by Liberia and Sierra Leone. With a sea-board running N.N.W. and S.S.E. from 10° 50′ N. to 9° 2′ N., a distance, without reckoning the indentations, of 170 m., the colony extends eastward 450 m. in a straight line and attains a maximum width N. to S. of nearly 300 m., covering fully 100,000 sq. m., and containing a population estimated at 2,000,000 to 2,500,000.
History.—This part of the Guinea coast was made known by the Portuguese voyagers of the 15th century. In consequence, largely, of the dangers attending its navigation, it was not visited by the European traders of the 16th-18th centuries so frequently as other regions north and east, but in the Rio Pongo, at Matakong (a diminutive island near the mouth of the Forekaria), and elsewhere, slave traders established themselves, and ruins of the strongholds they built, and defended with cannon, still exist. When driven from other parts of Guinea the slavers made this difficult and little known coast one of their last resorts, and many barracoons were built in the late years of the 18th century. It was not until after the restoration of Goree to her at the close of the Napoleonic wars that France evinced any marked interest in this region. At that time the British, from their bases at the Gambia and Sierra Leone, were devoting considerable attention to these Rivières du Sud (i.e. south of Senegal) and also to Futa Jallon. René Caillié, who started his journey to Timbuktu from Boké in 1827, did much to quicken French interest in the district, and from 1838 onward French naval officers, Bouët-Willaumez and his successors, made detailed studies of the coast. About the time that the British government became wearied of its efforts to open up the interior of West Africa, General Faidherbe was appointed governor of Senegal (1854), and under his direction vigorous efforts were made to consolidate French influence. Already in 1848 treaty relations had been entered into with the Nalu, and between that date and 1865 treaties of protectorate were signed with several of the coast tribes. During 1876-1880 new treaties were concluded with the chief tribes, and in 1881 the almany (or emir) of Futa Jallon placed his country under French protection, the French thus effectually preventing the junction, behind the coast lands, of the British colonies of the Gambia and Sierra Leone. The right of France to the littoral as far south as the basin of the Melakori was recognized by Great Britain in 1882; Germany (which had made some attempt to acquire a protectorate at Konakry) abandoned its claims in 1885, while in 1886 the northern frontier was settled in agreement with Portugal, which had ancient settlements in the same region (see Portuguese Guinea). In 1899 the limits of the colony were extended, on the dismemberment of the French Sudan, to include the upper Niger districts. In 1904 the Los Islands were ceded by Great Britain to France, in part return for the abandonment of French fishing rights in Newfoundland waters. (See also Senegal: History.)
French Guinea was made a colony independent of Senegal in 1891, but in 1895 came under the supreme authority of the newly constituted governor-generalship of French West Africa. Guinea has a considerable measure of autonomy and a separate budget. It is administered by a lieutenant-governor, assisted by a nominated council. Revenue is raised principally from customs and a capitation tax, which has replaced a hut tax. The local budget for 1907 balanced at £205,000. Over the greater part of the country the native princes retain their sovereignty under the superintendence of French officials. The development of agriculture and education are objects of special solicitude to the French authorities. In general the natives are friendly towards their white masters.
- "South Rivers" or, more literally, "Rivers of the South" [ed.]
- Numerous remains of a stone age have been discovered, both on the coast and in the hinterland. See L. Desplagnes, “L’Archéologie préhistorique en Guinée française,” in Bull. Soc. Géog. Comm. de Bordeaux, March 1907, and the authorities there cited.