Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate

  (Redirected from British Sierra Leone)

The Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate was the British colonial administration in Sierra Leone from 1808[1][2] to 1961,[1][2][7] part of the British Empire from the abolitionism era until the decolonisation era. The Crown colony, which included the area surrounding Freetown, was established in 1808. The protectorate was established in 1896[2][3] and included the interior of what is today known as Sierra Leone.[2]

Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate

Motto: Auspice Britannia liber
(Latin: "Free under the protection of Britain")
Anthem: God Save the King (1808–1837; 1901–1952)
God Save the Queen (1837–1901; 1952–1961)
Location of Sierra Leone (red) in Western Africa
Location of Sierra Leone (red) in Western Africa
StatusCrown colony
Common languagesEnglish (official), Temne, Mende, Krio widely spoken
Christianity, Islam
GovernmentCrown colony
• 1808–1820 (first)
George III
• 1952–1961 (last)
Elizabeth II
• 1808 (first)
Thomas Ludlam
• 1956–1961 (last)
Maurice Dorman
Prime Ministera 
• 1954–1961
Milton Margai
LegislatureLegislative Council (1863–1954)
House of Representatives (after 1954)
Historical eraAbolitionism
New Imperialism
Decolonisation of Africa
• Colony established
1 January[1] 1808[1][2]
• Protectorate established
31 August[3] 1896[2][3]
• Independence as Sierra Leone
27 April 1961
192481,999 km2 (31,660 sq mi)
• 1808
• 1924
• 1955
• 1960
CurrencyPound sterling (until 1912)
British West African pound (after 1912)
ISO 3166 codeSL
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Koya
Wassoulou Empire
Sierra Leone (1961–1971)
Today part ofSierra Leone
  1. The official name for head of government of Sierra Leone was "Chief Minister of Sierra Leone" from 1954 until 1958 and "Prime Minister of Sierra Leone" from 1958 until 1961.
Source for 1924 area and population:[6]

The motto of the colony and protectorate was Auspice Britannia liber (Latin for "Free under the protection of Britain"). This motto was included on Sierra Leone's later flag and coat of arms.[8]



In the 1780s, London was home to several thousand freed slaves and Black Pioneers, who had gained their freedom fighting on the side of the British in the American Revolutionary War. After several avenues to employment were closed to them, many of the Black Poor ended up destitute, and received support from the Committee for the Relief of the Black Poor. This Committee eventually decided to persuade several hundred members of the Black Poor community to return to the continent of their ancestors.[2][9]

The Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme was proposed by entomologist Henry Smeathman and drew interest from humanitarians like Granville Sharp, who saw it as a means of showing the pro-slavery lobby that black people could contribute towards the running of the new colony of Sierra Leone. Government officials soon became involved in the scheme as well, although their interest was spurred by the possibility of resettling a large group of poor citizens elsewhere.[10] William Pitt the Younger, prime minister and leader of the Tory party, had an active interest in the Scheme, because he saw it as a means to repatriate the Black Poor to Africa, since "it was necessary they should be sent somewhere, and be no longer suffered to infest the streets of London".[11]

The British made an agreement with a Temne chief King Tom to have land on the coast for the settlement of freed slaves. In 1787, a naval vessel carrying 411 passengers, including freed slaves, Black Pioneers, their white wives, and mixed-race children, arrived on the coast. Opponents of miscegenation incorrectly labelled the white wives of these black men as prostitutes. The settlement became known as Granville Town.[12][13]

Half of the settlers in the new colony died within the first year. Several black settlers started working for local slave traders. The settlers that remained forcibly captured land from a local African chieftain, but he retaliated, attacking the settlement, which was reduced to a mere 64 settlers comprising 39 black men, 19 black women, and six white women. Black settlers were captured by unscrupulous traders and sold as slaves, and the remaining colonists were forced to arm themselves for their own protection. King Tom's successor King Jemmy attacked and burned the colony in 1789.[2][14]

A new colony was built on another site and became known as Freetown. In 1792 some 1,200 Nova Scotian Settlers, freed slaves and Black Pioneers from Nova Scotia, and in 1800 another 551 Jamaican Maroons from the Colony of Jamaica came to the new settlement.[2]

The British government abolished the slave trade in 1807. It took responsibility of Sierra Leone in 1808 and made it a Crown colony.[2]

Later historyEdit

On 17 October 1821, the Sierra Leone Colony was made part of British West Africa, an administrative entity consisting of British colonies in West Africa. The entity's original name was Colony of Sierra Leone and its Dependencies, after which it became British West African Territories and finally British West African Settlements. British West Africa was constituted during two periods, from 17 October 1821 until its first dissolution on 13 January 1850, and again from 19 February 1866 until its final demise on 28 November 1888.[1] Freetown served as the capital of British West Africa through the entity's entire existence.[1][15]

On 31 August 1896, the hinterland of Sierra Leone became a British protectorate, thus creating Sierra Leone Protectorate.[1][3] The boundaries were demarcated with French Guinea and Liberia.[3]

On 1 January 1928 the British abolished domestic slavery.[16]

In 1930 Sierra Leone Development Company (DELCO), a British company, started mining iron ore.[16]

In 1932 Sierra Leone Selection Trust, a subsidiary of the British Consolidated African Selection Trust (CAST), was set up to mine diamonds.[16]

In 1937 a "Native Administration" system, patterned after Lord Frederick Lugard's indirect rule system in northern Nigeria, was introduced into the Sierra Leone Protectorate.[16]

In 1938 Wallace Johnson started the West African Youth League in Freetown, mobilising workers in new trade unions against the colonial government.[16]

When World War II began in 1939, emergency powers were used to incarcerate Wallace Johnson.[16]

In 1947 a new constitution was proposed for the colony, which gave the majority of seats in Legislative Council to the majority population of the protectorate.[7]

On 27 April 1961 Sierra Leone gained independence.[7]


Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate lasted until 1961 when it gained independence from the United Kingdom, with Elizabeth II as Queen of Sierra Leone. It retained her as head of state for a decade until 1971, when the country became a republic.[2]

See alsoEdit



  • Fyle, Magbaily C. (2006). Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. pp. XVII–XXII. ISBN 978-0-8108-5339-3.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Sierra Leone". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "History of Sierra Leone". HistoryWorld. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Fyle 2006, p. XX.
  4. ^ Fyle 2006, p. XVIII.
  5. ^ a b "Sierra Leone Population". Worldometers. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  6. ^ "The British Empire in 1924". The British Empire. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  7. ^ a b c Fyle 2006, p. XXII.
  8. ^ "Flag of Sierra Leone". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  9. ^ Michael Siva, "Why did the Black Poor of London not support the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme?", History Matters Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Winter, 2021), pp. 26-36. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
  10. ^ "Freed slaves in Sierra Leone". The Guardian. 31 August 2005. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  11. ^ Michael Siva, "Why did the Black Poor of London not support the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme?", History Matters Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Winter, 2021), p. 35.
  12. ^ Fyle 2006, p. XVII.
  13. ^ Sivapragasam, Michael, "Why Did Black Londoners not join the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme 1783–1815?" Unpublished Master's dissertation (London: Open University, 2013), pp. 40-3.
  14. ^ Michael Siva, "Why did the Black Poor of London not support the Sierra Leone Resettlement Scheme?", History Matters Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Winter, 2021), p. 45.
  15. ^ "Freetown – national capital, Sierra Leone". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Fyle 2006, p. XXI.

External linksEdit