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Notes on “Countries of Africa: 1957”

            I hope you enjoyed playing Countries of Africa: 1957 as much as I enjoyed making it.  Because there’s an awful lot to discuss on a historical map quiz and because there are multiple sources of information for the quiz, the Sporcle admins suggested this blog as a way to provide all the background information.

            I should first note that the year chosen (1957) wasn’t random.  The quiz needed to go far enough back that the countries weren’t just the same ones as today minus South Sudan, but not so far back that it entirely predated the age of European colonization. 

            Some notes on the correct answers:

            1. Algeria (France)- Algeria had been absorbed into the Ottoman Empire during the Barbary period.  The French began conquest of Algeria in 1830.  The Algerian war of independence, under the banner of the FLN began in 1954 and formal independence occurred in 1962.  As such, the territory was under the control of France and the colony is Algeria.[i]

            2. Morocco- A prime example of why the year 1957 was chosen, Morocco gained independence from its French protectorate (Treaty of Fez, 1912) in 1956.[ii]

            3. Western Sahara (Morocco, Spain)- Essentially the only remaining non-independent land remaining in Africa, Western Sahara is on the list of United Nations non self-governing territories.[iii]  In 1957 the territory was claimed both by Spain and by Morocco.  Spain declaimed control in 1975 and the territory remains disputed between Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is formally recognized by 48 nations, most recently South Sudan.  Another 25 nations had at one time recognized sovereignty but have now withdrawn recognition. 

            4. Libya- Known at one time as ‘Italian North Africa’, Libya was controlled by Italy for most of the first half of the 20th Century.  Following World War II the British and French took administrative control of Libya and on December 24, 1951 the country became independent.[iv]

            5. Tunisia- Another nation that led to the choice of 1957 as the date for the quiz, Tunisia gained independence from France in 1956 and became the Tunisian Republic in June of 1957.[v]

            6. Egypt- Like Algeria, the Ottomans held sway in Egypt until Napoleon’s ultimately unsuccessful invasion.  Out of that morass came the sultanate of Muhammad Ali (not the boxer) and then, eventually, British rule after the battle of Tel el-Kabir in 1882.  Following World War I, the British made a unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence in 1922.  Others may argue that even following the 1922 declaration there was a puppet monarchy in Egypt until 1952, but either way, the nation was independent in 1957.[vi]

            7. French West Africa- Perhaps I spent too much time as a (very geeky) kid playing board games like Risk and Axis & Allies, but I was pleased that 1957 also allowed me to include the aptly named ‘French West-Africa’, more a super-colony than anything else.  The territory that would eventually spawn Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Benin, Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, the conglomeration of French territories was given the joint name in 1904.  In a 1958 vote the colony was disbanded with Guinea becoming the first independent nation.[vii]

            8. The Gambia- The land along the Gambia and Senegal rivers has long been subject to European influence.  The Portuguese, British, French and Polish all made claims at various times.  The First Treaty of Versailles gave the territory to the British outright and independence was granted in 1965.[viii]

            9. Portuguese Guinea- The territory that is today the nation of Guinea-Bissau was, in 1957, ‘Portuguese Guinea’.  Just plain ‘Guinea’ or ‘Overseas Province of Guinea’ are also accepted.  Portugal had claimed the territory as early as the middle of the 15th Century.  In 1879 the territory was spun off of Cape Verde as a separate colony and remained in that status until a long guerrilla war for independence came to a successful end after the Carnation Revolution in Portugal in 1974.[ix]

            10. Sierra Leone- Another British colony in West Africa, the process toward independence began in 1951 with the drafting of a new provincial constitution.  Parliamentary elections were held in 1957 and full independence was granted in 1961.[x]

            11. Liberia- One of the few African countries without a European colonial history, Liberia was founded by the American Colonization Society in 1820.  Intended to be a place where freed slaves could be repatriated, it established itself as an independent republic in 1847 and has remained an independent nation since.[xi]

            12. Nigeria- Nigeria became a British protectorate in January 1, 1901 and was granted independence from the U.K. on October 1, 1960.[xii]

            13. French Cameroun- The current nation of Cameroon went through colonial phases with Germany (Kamerun), France (Cameroun) and the United Kingdom.  In 1957 the larger, southern portion had just been granted internal autonomy but did not gain full independence until 1960.[xiii]

            14. British Cameroon- The northern strip of the Cameroons was controlled by the British after German influence ended.  The northern portion of British Cameroon joined Nigeria and the southern portion united with French Cameroun to form the modern borders of Cameroon in 1961.[xiv]

            15. Ghana- Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain and England all had a colonial presence in Ghana.  The Dutch pulled out in 1874 and the British made the territory, then known as Gold Coast, a protectorate.  Following World War II an organization known as the United Gold Coast Convention was formed.  Independence followed when, in 1956, the U.K. merged Gold Coast with British Togoland.  Because official independence occurred in March of 1957, both ‘Ghana’ and ‘Gold Coast’ are accepted.[xv]

            16. Togo- The Germans made Togoland a protectorate in the 1880s and control was transferred to France following World War I.  Full independence was granted in 1960.[xvi]

            17. Benin- Formerly the Kingdom of Dahomey, the French took control in the early 1890s and maintained colonial power until 1960 when the newly independent Republic of Dahomey was created.  A Marxist coup in 1975 led to the nation being renamed The People’s Republic of Benin with the ‘People’s’ being dropped after free elections and a new constitution in 1990.[xvii]

            18. Equatorial Guinea- Originally claimed by Portugal, the treaty of El Pardo transferred control to Spain in 1778.  For some time the mainland and island portions were separate colonies with the mainland portion known as “Rio Muni”.  In 1957 the combined colony was known as ‘Spanish Guinea.’  All four names (Equatorial Guinea, Spain, Spanish Guinea and Rio Muni) are accepted.[xviii]

            19. French Equatorial Africa- Including parts of what later became Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Cameroon and the Republic of Congo, the territory was a United Nations Mandate after World War I, represented in the French Parliament after World War II and voted for independence in 1958, becoming the separate independent nations in 1960.[xix]

            20. Sudan- Formerly jointly governed by Egypt and the UK, Sudan became an independent nation on January 1, 1956.  (Note in the links that the State Dept. page has not yet been updated to separate South Sudan despite U.S. recognition of the nation’s independent status.)[xx]

            21. Ethiopia- Perhaps the only African nation without a clear colonial past, Ethiopia’s monarchical sovereignty dates back centuries and was recognized by the Italians in the 1889 Treaty of Wuchale, which gave present day Eritrea to Italy.[xxi]

            22. British Somaliland- The present day nation of Somalia was, in 1957 divided into British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland.  The Italians had temporarily lost control over their portion after World War II but that control was provisionally returned as part of the Potsdam agreement in 1949. British Somaliland became independent on June 26, 1960 (as Somaliland) and united with the Italian portion as Somalia five days later.[xxii]

            23. French Somaliland- Now the nation of Djibouti, a referendum was held in 1960 to determine whether it would unite with the soon to be independent British and Italian portions.  The referendum failed and the territory remained a French colony until June of 1977.[xxiii]

            24. Italian Somaliland- See British description in #22 with Italian portion uniting to form Somalia on July 1, 1960.[xxiv]

            25. Kenya- The Germans first established a protectorate here in 1885 with the British East Africa Company arriving three years later. The use of the colony name “British East Africa” ceased in 1920 and so it is not accepted here. Most of the decade of the 1950s was dominated by the Mau Mau rebellion and, following its defeat, a move toward independence eventually led to a free Kenya on December 12, 1963.[xxv]

            26. Uganda- Once part of the British East Africa colony, it became a separate protectorate when the British divided the colony in 1920.  Self rule came with the Uganda Independence Act of 1962.[xxvi]

            27. Tanganyika- Granted independence from the U.K. in 1961 the nation became the Republic of Tanganyika until April of 1964 when it united with the island nation of Zanzibar to become modern day Tanzania.[xxvii]

            28. Ruanda-Urundi- Colonized by Belgium in 1916, this territory is now the present day nations of Rwanda and Burundi.  However, the colony was a unified territory in 1957 and so neither of the current nation names is a correct colony answer for purposes of the quiz.  Independence for the joint colony came in 1962 and the nations shortly separated along traditional and cultural (Hutu and Tutsi) lines.[xxviii]

            29. Zanzibar- Later joined with the Republic of Tanganyika in 1964 to form present day Tanzania, the independent island nation of Zanzibar existed from December of 1963 to April of 1964.  In 1957 it was a separate British colony.[xxix]

            30. Belgian Congo- The poorly named Congo Free State (1877-1908) was, in fact, entirely under the control of King Leopold of Belgium.  It was “free” only in that the King controlled it free of influence from the Belgian parliament. Parliamentary control was assumed in 1908 and the territory was renamed ‘Belgian Congo’.  Independence was granted by Belgium on June 30, 1960.[xxx]

            31. Nyasaland- Originally colonized as the British Central African Protectorate, the name was changed to Nyasaland (Lake Malawi was then known as Lake Nyasa) in 1907.  The Nyasaland African Congress was formed in 1944 to work toward independence.  In 1953 the British united governorship over Nyasaland and the two Rhodesias under the mantle of the Central African Federation and so that three-word moniker will trigger all three colonies on the quiz (though they are depicted separately on the map).  Independence, as the nation of Malawi, came in 1964.[xxxi]

            32. Northern Rhodesia- In a similar time frame to that of Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia became a British colony prior to the beginning of the 20th Century.  As with Nyasaland the colony name ‘Central African Federation’ will trigger the correct answer, for the reason mentioned above.  Independence, as Zambia, came in October of 1964.[xxxii]

            33. Angola- Portuguese traders came to Angola as early as the 16th century but full colonial control did not come for nearly 300 years.  The territory was also referred to as the ‘Overseas Province of Angola’ (1951) and, alternatively, Portuguese Angola and Portuguese West Africa.  Each of those variations is accepted.  Armed revolution began in 1961 and independence came following the coup in Portugal in 1974.[xxxiii]

            34. Mozambique- As Angola was ‘Portuguese West Africa’, Mozambique was ‘Portuguese East Africa’, an alternate name that the quiz accepts (along with ‘Overseas Province of Mozambique’).  Similar to Angola, independence came in 1975 following the coup in Lisbon the year prior.[xxxiv]

            35. Southern Rhodesia- As Zambia grew out of Northern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe grew from Southern Rhodesia though independence here did not come until 1980.  Again, the unified name of Central African Federation is accepted.[xxxv]

            36. Bechuanaland- The British government created the protectorate of Bechuanaland in 1885.  At the time of the grant of independence to South Africa there was consideration for including Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland (Lesotho) into the territory but the British declined to do so.  A constitution was drafted in 1961 and on September 30, 1966 the nation became independent under the modern name ‘Botswana.’[xxxvi]

            37. South West Africa- Colonized by Germany in the 1880s as Deutsch-Südwestafrika, the territory was transferred first to British control in 1915 and then to South Africa following its independence.  In a most unusual move, the South African government refused to allow the United Nations to assume a Trust Territory status after World War II and so the territory officially remained League of Nations mandate territory even though the League itself had long been defunct.  U.N. resolution 2145 terminated that mandate in 1966 and declared that the presence of South African control was illegal.  Undeterred, South Africa maintained control over the region until its independence, now known as ‘Namibia’ in 1990.[xxxvii]

            38. South Africa- Following the second Boer War, the South Africa Act of 1909 created the Union of South Africa, a dominion of the British Empire.  Full sovereignty came in 1931 with the Statute of Westminster.[xxxviii]

            39. Madagascar- France assumed control of the island in the Franco-Hova War of 1883-1896.  A national constitution was adopted in 1959 and the independent nation of Madagascar came into existence in June of 1960.  The colonial name ‘Malagasy Protectorate’ was used during the Franco-Hova War, but had been out of use for 60 years by the effective date of this quiz.[xxxix]

            40. Cape Verde- One of the oldest European colonies in Africa, Cape Verde was ‘discovered’ by Antonio de Noli, sailing for Portugal, in 1456 and he was appointed as the first colonial governor.  Portuguese control remained and the islands became a province in 1951, thus ‘Cape Verde’ is not actually a ‘colonial’ name, but rather a ‘provincial’ name in 1957.  As with the other Portuguese colonial territories in Africa, independence came swiftly after the Portuguese coup in 1974.[xl]

            41. Comoros- Though attacked by the Portuguese and by Madagascar in the 16th and 17th centuries, colonial rule came first from France in 1886 and full French control of the islands was achieved shortly prior to World War I.  Independence for three of the four Comorian islands came in 1975, by unilateral declaration.  The island of Mayotte voted to remain a French territory.[xli]

            42. Basutoland- As noted in the Bechuanaland comments above, there was originally some thought given to including Basutoland in a free South Africa, and indeed the South African government made repeated requests to the British government to do just that.  The withdrawal of South Africa from the British Commonwealth and the institution of apartheid ended all chances of that unification and Basutoland was granted independence as Lesotho in 1966.[xlii]

            43. Mauritius- Named by the Dutch in honor of Prince Maurice Van Nassau in 1598, the French assumed control in 1715.  The French surrendered the island to the British in 1810 and independence was granted in 1968.[xliii]

            44. Seychelles- The first European to visit the islands was Vasco de Gama who named the outer islands after himself (‘Amirantes’ or ‘Islands of the Admiral’).  British control came from the Treaty of Paris (1814) and independence was granted in 1976.[xliv]

            45. Swaziland- The Basutoland notes are equally applicable here with the added comment that independence came on September 6, 1968.[xlv]

            46. Sao Tome and Principe- As with the other Portuguese colonies, colonial control came in the 16th Century (Sao Tome in 1522 and Principe in 1573) and independence came a year after the revolution in Portugal in 1974.[xlvi]



[i] See, generally, “A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962” by Alistair Horne or http://www.onwar.com/aced/data/alpha/algeria1954.htm

[ii] “Morocco since 1830: A History” by C.R. Pennell or http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5431.htm

[vi] See “Egypt, a Short History” by James Jankowski or https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/eg.html

[viii] The full text of the Gambia Independence Act can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/93/contents.

[x]The full text of the Sierra Leone Independence Act can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/9-10/16/contents

[xi] See “Liberia: The Heart of Darkness” by Gabriel Williams or http://onliberia.org/con_declaration.htm

[xii] The full text of the Nigerian Independence Act can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/8-9/55

[xv] The full text of the Ghana Independence Act can be found here: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/5-6/6/contents

[xx] “A Modern History of Sudan” by Robert O. Collins or http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/5424.htm

[xxv]Full text of the Kenya independence act:  http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1963/54

[xxvi] Full text of the Uganda independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/10-11/57/contents

[xxvii] Full text of the Tanganyika independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/10-11/1/contents

[xxxi] Full text of the Malawi independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/46

[xxxii] Full text of the Zambia independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/65/contents

[xxxvi] Full text of the Botswana independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1966/23/contents

[xlii] Full text of the Lesotho independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1966/24/contents

[xliii] Full text of the Mauritius independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/8/contents

[xlv] Full text of the Swaziland independence act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1968/56/contents