Senegal History

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The Portugese were the first Europeans to make contact with the territory which would later become Senegal. They were followed by the French, who established a trading station in 1569, and the Dutch. In the later seventeenth century, the Dutch were pushed out of Senegal, and for the next two centuries the French, in competition with other European powers, operated slave trading outposts along the Senegal river.

During the Napoleonic wars, the British seized part of French Senegal, but it was returned to France in 1817. During the nineteenth century, the French expanded their control of the territory around the Senegal river, and used Senegal as a base from which to expand into other parts of Africa. Eventually, the slave trade was abolished and slavery outlawed.

A school system was established in the nineteenth century, and the development of commercial agriculture was initiated through the cultivation of peanuts. In 1902, French colonial government headquarters for West Africa was transferred from St. Louis, an early French trading station, to Dakar, which became the capital of Senegal.

During World Wars I and II, many Senegalese troops were sent to fight for France. In 1916, French citizenship was granted to the residents of the four major cities of Senegal-Dakar, Goree, Rufisque, and St. Louis. It was extended to all Senegalese in the constitution of 1946.

In 1958, Senegal was declared an independent republic within the Mali federation of African states. After the breakup of this federation some 20 months later, Senegal withdrew from the Mali federation and has been a completely independent republic since 1960.

The Portugese were also the first Europeans to make contact with the territory which later became known as the Gambia. They did not, however, establish any permanent settlements there. During the seventeenth century, various European countries set up trading stations on the coast or the Gambia river. In the nineteenth century, the Gambia was incorporated into the British colony of Sierra Leone, and became a separated colony in 1888.

In 1965, the Gambia became a republic within the British Commonwealth, and an independent republic in 1970. Despite close economic, political, and military ties, Senegal and the Gambia have not as yet merged into one country. Although a Confederation of Senegambia was formed by both countries in 1982, it was dissolved in 1989.[1]


Helpful Links


  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Senegal and the Gambia,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1987-1999.