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Title: Sierra Leone and World War 1
Author: Cole, Festus
Awarding Body: SOAS, University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 1994
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Though Sierra Leone was not a theatre of war in 1914, World War 1 had significant consequences for the dependency. Convinced that the crisis was not just a "Whiteman's palaver," Sierra Leone supported the Allies against the Central Powers. Fearing reprisals from Germany, Governor Merewether warned against denuding the Protectorate of troops but the global emergency was, in the opinion of the Colonial Office, more important than the interests of the Colony. Thus between 1914 and 1917, Sierra Leoneans were recruited for service in Togoland and the Cameroons and to help fight Britain's "porters' war" in East Africa. If recruitment reduced the crime rate in Freetown it also took away able-bodied men from agriculture. Returnees from the Cameroons worsened the problems of unemployment and sanitation. The war exposed the vulnerability of Sierra Leone to the spread of disease. Congestion, increased international trade contacts and the lack of fumigation facilities for ships at Freetown's harbour, helped the spread of smallpox and influenza. Whilst smallpox threatened whole villages, and dislocated farming, influenza paralysed education and arrested progress in the oil palm industry. Economically, the war hindered developments in the import and export sectors. By 1915 dwindling revenue returns pointed to the need for financial stringency. The problems of economic decline, high prices for imported goods and the manipulative tactics of foreign firms were felt mainly by indigenous producers and consumers. The chief variables governing economic activity were unfavourable climatic conditions, the high tariff rates on spirits, tax evasion in the Protectorate and the closure of the German market. Thus growth in revenue in 1918 did not indicate any widespread accumulation of wealth. Economic problems impinged significantly on the already depleted supplies of food in wartime. Rice smuggling over the frontier, the requisitioning of rice by the military authorities, the hoarding of rice by traders and the famine of 1919 aggravated food shortages and provided the triggers for rural and urban violence.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral