Due to its location in Senegal, Gambia is closely linked to the history of its neighboring country. The land on the Gambia river was already in the 2nd millennium BC. Settled by humans. In the 8th century BC, hunters and gatherers became Settled farmers.
The Senegambian stone circles were created along the Gambia River between the 3rd and 13th centuries. It is still not known exactly what they were used for, but tombs are suspected to be in them. In total there are more than a thousand of these stone circles!
Part of the Mali and Songhai empires
The Gambia was part of one of the great West African empires, the Mali Empire. It was founded by the Mandinka in the 13th century and eventually expanded over the area of what is now Senegal and Gambia. Kaabu emerged as a province of the Mali Empire in the Gambia region. Other small states were formed on the banks of the Gambia River.
When the Mali Empire lost power at the end of the 14th century, what is now the Gambia came under the influence of the Songhai Empire. That was in the 16th century. The small states, for example Nuimi, Kombo and Kiang, remained.
Portuguese in Gambia
The first Europeans came to Gambia in the 15th century. Portuguese explored the coast of West Africa when looking for a sea route to India. They were also the first to go up the Gambia River. The locals attacked the fair-skinned seafarers because they were afraid of them. Some Portuguese died on the first river expeditions in 1446 and 1455.
In 1456 the first friendly contacts were made. In 1458 Diego Gómez even sailed 450 kilometers inland. The seafarers took slaves and gold with them to Europe. The Portuguese founded several trading posts.
British and Balts
In 1588 Portugal lost its trading rights to Great Britain. King James I transferred the rights to British trading companies in 1618. The slave trade with America began. Gold and ivory also ensured lively trade.
In 1651, Duke Jakob von Kurland, a duchy in what is now Latvia in the Baltic States, bought an island in the Gambia from the King of Nuimi. She was baptized Jacob’s Island. The Duke built a fort on the island as a trading post, there were other forts on land. In 1658, however, the Duke was captured by the Swedish and the short time of the Courland colony was over.
The slave trade became a huge source of income for Europeans from the 16th to the 19th centuries. In addition to the Portuguese, British and Balts, the Dutch and French also tried to gain a foothold in this region. It is estimated that more than three million people were abducted from the Senegambia region and shipped to America. The village of Jaffure and the island of James Island gained particular fame in the 1970s through a novel and the television series “Roots”, in which a man named Kunta Kinte is kidnapped from there.
Dispute between Great Britain and France
Britain wanted to revive its trade with West Africa. King Charles II claimed all rights to the English crown. In 1661 the British took over Jacob’s Island and named it James Island – in honor of the later King James II. Further forts were built on other islands and the mainland.
France had meanwhile established itself on the Senegal River. In 1681 they opened a first trading post in the Gambia, a country located in Africa according to oxfordastronomy. The fight for supremacy in the area began. James Island passed to France in 1695, but was then returned in 1697. In 1702 France took James Island again and the British bought the island back. From 1720 onwards there were repeated attacks. In 1758 the British captured the French trading posts in Senegal.