The History of Cameroon
The earliest Cameroonian civilization dates back to 8,000 BCE when the Baka people migrated into what is now known as modern day Cameroon. The Baka people were hunters and gatherers from the Central African rainforest. They are known to typically be very short (around five feet in height) and also known to be very good hunters who are extremely good at living off the land. They lived in the southern and eastern regions of the country till around 200 BCE when there was an increase in migration from Bantu-speaking tribes, which forced the Baka off of arable land and into surrounding forests. Meanwhile in the dry north of Cameroon, Arabic and Hamitic migratory groups began to settle and build several different important civilizations around the Chad Basin. Some of these tribes that had strongholds of power in the area were the Karem, Bournou, and Sou peoples. At the start of 1500 BC the nomadic, Islamist Fulani tribe migrated to the Northern area where these various ethnic groups were settled and by the 1700’s had established a powerful presence in the region displacing large groups of non-Muslim inhabitants.
The Portuguese were one of the first European countries to arrive in Cameroon in the 15th century. Fernando Po was an explorer from Portugal who was leading an expedition up the Wouri River in 1472. He noticed that the river had an abundance of large shrimps, so he decided to call the river Rios dos Camaroes (in English it means the River of Prawns) which becomes the base of forming the name Cameroon. When the Portuguese first arrived in Cameroon they were primarily interested in acquiring slaves and coastal trade. They were initially restricted to the coastal areas because of Malaria. Europeans had not yet created the medicine Quinine (which was created later in the 1870’s) to combat the disease and were afraid of catching it. The Portuguese started what would be a four hundred year trading relationship with local African chiefs and later went on to include traders from England, Holland, France, and Germany. The African chiefs served as a middleman for the Europeans and in-land tribes that had something to sell. These tribes traded mostly slaves (later switching to gold with the cessation of the slave trade) and ivory in exchange for cloth, guns, and metal products. There was an explosion in Euro-African trade, which increased the importance of the coastal region and ultimately led to the overtaking of the pre-existing Bornou Empire. Meanwhile in the Northern areas, the Fulani’s balanced the power of the coastal kingdoms by maintaining their strong hold on the region and establishing a lucrative slave trade in the area by exploiting the remaining non Muslim tribes that had not been pushed out previously by the Fulanis. Many of the slaves sold were indigenous people that had been pushed from their land by the Pastoral Nomads immigrating from Nigeria, leaving them as vulnerable refugees for the slave trade.
In the 1600’s Dutch takes over the slave trade in Cameroon and the situation remains relatively the same until the mid 1800’s. With trade between Europe and Cameroon gradually developing and changing, an English navy engineer and missionary named Alfred Saker is sent to set up one of the first large European settlements in 1845. He settles in Douala at the mouth of the Wouri River and begins building schools and churches. He sees great financial potential in the settlements and tries to convince the English government to make it a crown colony but it doesn’t happen. Although Europe had done this a few years prior, in 1863 the United States finally abolished slavery and we begin to see a decline in the slave trade immediately. Illegal trade continued for several years after but eventually slavery completely died out. With the slaves no longer apart of trade, Europeans started trading for natural resources like...
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