History, European Rivalry
Senegal River, gum arabic, metal goods, gold dust, centuries
Modern trade links with Europe were forged after the Portuguese reached the mouth of the Senegal River and Cap Vert in 1444 and 1445. The Portuguese traded cloth and metal goods in return for gold dust, gum arabic, and ivory.
Shortly after 1600 the Portuguese were displaced by the Dutch and French, and by 1700 the French dominated commerce along the coast. Despite British-French rivalry and conflicts in the area during the late 17th and 18th centuries, French influence was extended far into the interior. But most Franco-African trade continued to be handled by African middlemen, who brought goods to the French settlements at the coast. The growth of the Fulani state of Fouta Toro along the lower Senegal River in the 18th century, however, undermined French activity, and during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) the British captured the French trading stations; they were returned later in the century. European influence at this time was economic rather than political.
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