Sierra Leone Colony and Protectorate

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
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 
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)
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 there were a number of freed slaves in London that needed a better place to live and to be employed in. It was decided that they should go to the continent their ancestors came from.[2]

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 331 freed slaves and 60 white Londoners, supposedly prostitutes, arrived at the coast. The settlement became known as Granville Town.[9] Half of the settlers in the new colony died within the first year. Several freed slaves started working for local slave traders. King Tom's successor King Jemmy attacked and burned the colony in 1789.[2]

A new colony was built on another site and became known as Freetown. In 1792 some 1200 freed slaves from Nova Scotia and in 1800 another 551 from the Colony of Jamaica came to the new settlement.[2]

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


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][10]

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.[11]

In 1930 Sierra Leone Development Company (DELCO), a British company, started mining iron ore.[11]

In 1932 Sierra Leone Selection Trust, a subsidiary of the British Consolidated African Selection Trust (CAST), was set up to mine diamonds.[11]

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.[11]

In 1938 Wallace Johnson started the West African Youth League in Freetown, mobilising workers in new trade unions against the colonial government.[11]

When World War II began in 1939, emergency powers were used to incarcerate Wallace Johnson.[11]

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 also



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


  1. "Sierra Leone". Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  2. "History of Sierra Leone". HistoryWorld. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
  3. Fyle 2006, p. XX.
  4. Fyle 2006, p. XVIII.
  5. "Sierra Leone Population". Worldometers. Retrieved 6 September 2017.
  6. "The British Empire in 1924". The British Empire. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  7. Fyle 2006, p. XXII.
  8. "Flag of Sierra Leone". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 22 September 2017.
  9. Fyle 2006, p. XVII.
  10. "Freetown – national capital, Sierra Leone". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  11. Fyle 2006, p. XXI.
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