Archaeology findings show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited for thousands of years. Traditional historiography has customarily presented it as a people by successive waves of invaders; but the language pattern suggests that the coastal Bulom (Sherbro), Temne, and Limba have been in continuous settled occupation for a long time, with sporadic immigration from inland Mende-speaking people including Vai, Loko and Mende. They organised themselves in small political units of independent kingdoms or chiefdoms, the powers of whose rulers were checked by councils. Secret societies, notably the Poro society also exercised political power as well as instructed initiates in the customs of the country.
Muslim traders brought Islam. Portuguese sailors, Alvaro Fernandez (1447) and Pedro Da Cintra (1462), were among the first European explorers to details their adventures along the coast of Sierra Leone. Located near present day Freetown, the Rokel estuary was established as an important source of fresh water for Sea Traders and explorers. Over the next 30 years, sea traders opened a bay for trading goods such as swords, kitchen and other household utensils in exchange for beeswax and fine ivory works. By the mid 1550’s, slaves replaced these items as the major commodity. Though the Portuguese were among the first in the region and their language formed the basis for trade, their influence had diminished by the 1650’s. English, French, Dutch and Danish interests in West Africa had grown. Trade was established through coastal African rulers who prohibited European traders from entering the interior. Rent and gifts were paid for gold, slaves, beeswax, ivory and cam wood.
British traders of the Royal African company established Forts along the coast for trading in 1672 but the British did not have monopoly on the area. Rival European nations attacked the Forts. Admiral de Ruyter is noted to having sacked Tasso Island in 1664 as a reaction to the maltreatment of Dutch traders. In 1728, Afro-Portuguese traders captured the New Royal African Company’s fort at Bunce Island
Sierra Leone History - Modern
In 1787, British philanthropists founded the "Province of Freedom" which later became Freetown, a British crown colony and the principal base for the suppression of the slave trade. By 1792, 1200 freed slaves from Nova Scotia joined the original settlers, the Maroons. Another group of slaves rebelled in Jamaica and travelled to Freetown in 1800.
Through the efforts of men such as William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson and Granville Sharpe, Lord Mansfield formed an administration in 1806, which was instrumental in the British Empire’s abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade (1807). The British established a naval base in Freetown to patrol against illegal slave ships. A fine of £100 was established for every slave found on a British ship.
In 1808 Sierra Leone officially became a crown colony with the land possessions of Sierra Leone Company (formerly known as St George’s Bay Company) transferred to the crown. The colony was dedicated to demonstrating the principles of Christianity, “civilisation” and commerce.
In 1833 British Parliament passed the Emancipation Act, and in 1833 slavery was finally abolished. It wasn’t until 1865; the United States passed the 13th amendment abolishing slavery.
By 1855, over 50,000 freed slaves has been settled in Freetown. Known as the Krios, the repatriated settlers of Freetown live today in a multi-ethnic country. Though English is the official language krio is widely spoken throughout the country allowing different tribal groups a common language. Check out some basic krio.
Sierra Leone History - Post Modern
Sierra Leone achieved independence on the 27th of April 1961. the country attained republican status on the 19th April 1971. Since independence many changes have been experienced politically economically and in the social society of SL.
The 90's brought successive civil disturbances culminating into a ghastly RUF rebel war that led to the intervention of the International Community led by the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL). Various international organisations helped provide an environment for free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections of 2002. The war has been officially over since 2001. The next step is rebuilding Sierra Leone but there is much to do.
Since independence, Sierra Leone has been ruled by 8 Head of State, at one time making history in the world, of having the youngest Head of State, Valentine Strasser aged 27 years. Today a multi-party democracy operates under the presidency of Alhaji Dr Ahmed Tejan Kabbah who won a landslide victory in the May 2002 Presidential and Parliamentary Election.
The SLPP administration of Alhaji Dr Ahmed Tejan Kabbah were voted out of power in what has widely being acclaimed as a free, fair and peaceful election in 2007. The current President is Ernest Bai Koroma