Africa, French in

   The French colonial presence in Africa (aside from Algeria) consisted in two large administrative areas: French west Africa and French Equatorial Africa.
   French west Africa, once one of the largest colonial zones in Africa, presently consists of seven independent nations: Benin, Ivory Coast, Senegal (formerly French Guinea), Mali and Mauritania (formerly French Sudan), Burkina Faso (formerly upper volta), and Niger.
   The Europeans first explored the west coast of Africa in the 15th century with the arrival of the portuguese. French influence began in the 17th century with the establishment of trading posts on the Senegal River. Between 1854 and 1865, the French explored the area around the river and entered present-day Senegal and Mauritania.
   Territory was taken from the local Wolof and Serer peoples and from the Tukulor Empire, which controlled an area along the Niger River in what is today Mali. In the 1860s the French established outposts on the coasts of Guinea and the ivory Coast. in 1883 they established a protectorate over the area around Dahomey.
   After 1876 the French pushed further into the interior toward the Nile. But prevented from extending further by the British, they concentrated on establishing a colonial empire in west Africa. By the 1890s, they had control of an area extending from Algeria in the north to the Gulf of Guinea in the south. in 1895, these areas were organized into the administrative unit of French west Africa, which officially would consist of several colonial areas defined in the early 20th century.
   During World War II, French Africa was initially loyal to the vichy regime, but in 1942, after the Allied invasion of North Africa, French west Africa became Free French territory under charles de gaulle.
   French Equatorial Africa, the former French colonial possession in central Africa, consisted of the present-day nations of Chad, Gabon, Central African Republic, and Republic of the Congo. The French presence in this area dates back to 1839, when a settlement was built on the coast of what is now Gabon. Colonial development occurred rapidly, and by 1862, the French had consolidated their power in this coastal region. Later in the century, several explorers, notably pierre-paul savor-gnan de brazza, charted and explored the interior of central Africa. At the berlin west africa conference of 1884-85, the major European powers decided upon a mutual division of Africa. France, by 1891, had control of most of Gabon and an area north of the Congo River. Between 1894 and 1916, despite strong resistance from the African inhabitants, the French conquered most of what is now the Central African Republic and Chad. In 1910, all these areas were organized into an administrative unit known as French Equatorial Africa. A capital was established at Brazzaville.
   During World War II, French Equatorial Africa was the first French overseas possession to break with vichy and rally to the Free French. in 1946, the four former colonies of this area were made overseas territories within the French union and their inhabitants were given French citizenship. By 1956, the right to vote was extended to all inhabitants. in 1958, the four territories voted to become autonomous republics within the newly created French Community.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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