The first written accounts of the West Africa region came from records of Arab traders in the 9th and 10th centuries AD, who established the trans - Saharan trade route for slaves, gold and ivory. The Portuguese took over this trade using maritime routes in the 15th century. At that time, The Gambia was part of the Mali Empire. Between 1651 and 1661 part of Gambia was (indirectly) a colony of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Colanders settled on the Kunta Kinteh Island (James Island), which they called St. Andrews Island and was used as a trade base from 1651 until its captivity by the British in 1661.
The 1783 Treaty of Paris gave Great Britain possession of The Gambia, but the French retained a tiny enclave at Albreda on the north bank of the river, which was finally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1857.
It is believed that as many as three million slaves may have been taken from the West Africa region during the three centuries that the transatlantic slave trade operated. Slaves were initially sent to Europe to work as servants until the market for more labor was expanded in the West Indies and North America in the 18th century. In 1807, slave trading was abolished throughout the British Empire and the British tried unsuccessfully to end the slave trade in The Gambia. They established the military post of Bathurst (now the capital city, Banjul) in 1861. In 1888, The Gambia became a separate colonial entity. A year later an agreement with France established the present boundaries and The Gambia became a British Crown Colony, divided for administrative purposes into the colony (city of Banjul and the surrounding area) and the protectorate (remainder of the territory). During World War II, Gambian troops fought with the Allies in Burma. Banjul served as an air hub for the U.S. Army Air Corps and a port of call for Allied naval convoys. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped overnight in Banjul en route to and from the Casablanca Conference in 1943, marking the first visit to the African Continent by an American president whilst in office.
Meeting of the Gambia Constitutional Conference 1961
The Gambia achieved independence on 18th February, 1965, as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth. Five years later, on the 24th April, 1970, The Gambia became a Republic within the Commonwealth, with Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara as the first Prime Minister and head of state.
Sir Dawda Jawara outside Gambia House in West London in the 1960s. Sir Dawda with Queen Elizabeth, II and other foreign guests.
A military coup in 1994 deposed President Jawara, who has been in power for 32 years (since becoming prime ministers in 1962). Yahya Jammeh remained Head of State since 1994 to January 2017.
Yahya Jammeh , former President of The Gambia (1994-2016)
Yahya Jammeh lost to Adama Barrow in an election that was followed by high tension requiring the intervention of ECOWAS troops to force him to accept and step down. Adama Barrow is the current democratically elected and siting President.
Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of The Gambia