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British West Africa

Location of British West Africa.

British West Africa was the collective name for British colonies in West Africa during the colonial period, either in the general geographical sense or more specifically those comprised in a formal colonial administrative entity. The United Kingdom colonised varying parts of these territories or the whole from the late 1780s until the 1960s. From west to east, the colonies became the independent countries of The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria.


  • Historical jurisdiction 1
  • Social and cultural development 2
  • Economic Development 3
  • Aftermath 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Historical jurisdiction

British West Africa or the British West African Settlements constituted during two periods (17 October 1821 until its first dissolution on 13 January 1850 and again 19 February 1866 till its final demise on 24 November 1888) an administrative entity under a governor-in-chief (comparable in rank to a Governor-general), an office vested in the governor of Sierra Leone (at Freetown).

The various colonies were established to aid the efforts of the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron wresting of control from various polities' resources, cultures, and highly profitable exports. Coaling stations and depots were built in the coastal villages and because many people lost their lands, businesses, and livelihoods, low wage jobs that were created as a result of resource exploitation were all that was left for many from the local population. Consequently, regional immigrants looking to start a new life joined the population, adding to the expansion of preexisting existing cities and villages.

The other colonies originally included in the jurisdiction were the Gambia and the British Gold Coast (modern Ghana). western Nigeria, eastern Nigeria and northern Nigeria.

Flag of British West Africa

Social and cultural development

The case for contamination can be credited to the British colonisation of West Africa. The social and cultural development have been extremely dynamic under these circumstances. British West Africa's makeup includes Gold Coast (Ghana), Sierra Leone, Gambia (Colony) Western Nigeria, Eastern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria. Each of these countries are in the post-colonial period or what Kwame Appiah (Ghanaian writer) would call neo-colonialism. British West Africa's development is solely based on modernisation. Autonomous educational systems were the first step to modernising indigenous culture. The cultures and interest of those indigenous tribes were let out. New social order as well as European influences within schools and local traditions helped mould British West Africa's globalised culture. Mostly provided by the British West African colonial school curriculum; they developed local elites whose new values and philosophies changed their overall cultural development.

In terms of social issues with British West Africa; sex and race usually conflicted each other. (Carina E. Ray actually dubbed it the White Wife Problem) Basically throughout British West Africa's history, interracial relations were frowned upon and couples were highly discriminated against. Black men were often accused of taking the jobs of white British men (mostly port workers) jobs as well as stealing their wives. White women were seen as immoral traitors who put their own selfish sexual desires over the good of their nation. There were even certain policies that deported the wives of these relationships back to Britain and denied them access to any of these colonies.

Economic Development

Colonial Banks were known with their devious endeavours ; usually developing monopolies to control competition at the expense of British West African civilians. There were only two major banks that operated in British West Africa, Barclays and the Bank of British West Africa. They had great economic and financial influence over all of British West Africa from about 1916 to 1960. From a dependency theory view point, these banks took advantage through price fixing and certain unfair regulations.

The careless coverage of these events by mostly British Historians has left a large controversy on the veracity of their published works regarding British West Africa. The three main Historians accused by Professor Adu Boahen for slapdash reporting on mainly Gold Coast as well as Ghana's history are W. V. Claridge who published his book, A History of the Gold Coast and Ashanti in 1915 and was reprinted by Frank Cass in 1964. The second was the History of the Gold Coast written in 1940 by W. E. F. Ward and published in 1948. There was also another edition published in 1958 under the name A History of Ghana. The third being Professor J.D Fage, he published a book under the name Ghana, An Historical Interpretation.

Their economic development was mostly attributed to each regions agricultural developments. The development of the financial markets proved that colonial banking often expunged the colony's of all their valuable commodities with little in return.


Even after its final dissolution, a single currency, the British West African pound, was in effect throughout the region -including Nigeria- from 1907 to 1962.

Nigeria gained independence in 1960. Sierra Leone was self-governing by 1958 and gained independence in 1960. Gambia gained independence in 1965. In 1954, the British Gold Coast was allowed by Britain to self-govern and in 1957, the Gold Coast was given independence from Britain, under the name Ghana.

See also


  • WorldStatesmen- Sierra Leone- British West Africa

External links

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