History of Sierra Leone

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The history of Sierra Leone as an independent nation began in 1961, though the lands had been inhabited since at least 2,500 years ago. Sierra Leone played a significant part in modern political liberty. It began as a colony of freed British slaves and, in the 1790s, blacks voted for the first time in elections, as did women.[1]

Contents

Early history

Archaeological finds show that Sierra Leone has been inhabited continuously for at least 2,500 years,[2] populated by successive movements from other parts of Africa.[3] The use of iron was introduced to Sierra Leone by the 9th century, and by AD 1000 agriculture was being practiced by coastal tribes.[4] Sierra Leone's dense tropical rainforest partly isolated it from other precolonial African cultures[5] and from the spread of Islam.

European contacts with Sierra Leone were among the first in West Africa. In 1462 Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra mapped the hills surrounding what is now Freetown Harbour, naming the oddly shaped formation Serra Lyoa (Lion Mountains).

At this time the country was inhabited by numerous politically independent native groups. Several different languages were spoken, but there was similarity of religion. In the coastal rainforest belt there were Bulom speakers between the Sherbro and Freetown estuaries, Loko North of the Freetown estuary to the Little Scarcies, Temne at the mouth of the Scarcies and also inland, and Limba farther up the Scarcies.

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