The Gambia is now a popular tourist destination for Brits. And it’s been a very popular destination for Britons for rather different reasons for a very long time. Early British visitors primarily were after gold and slaves, and a route to the fabled riches of Timbuktu. As early as 1588, we were paying the Portuguese for rights in the area. And in the 1660s we managed to get hold of James Island, the home, not surprisingly, of our Fort James. It wasn’t actually called James Island when we took it, but we named it after James, Duke of York, before he became James II and was thrown off his throne.
The French similarly set up a fort at Albreda in 1681, uncomfortably close to James Island for all Europeans concerned. Ahead lay a long struggle for control between the two European powers. The French captured Fort James in 1695. We got it back in 1697. And then the French took it again in 1702.
In 1779, the French took Fort James yet again, but four years later the Treaty of Versailles gave the Gambia River area to us, while keeping Albreda for the French. Finally, in 1857 we got that too.
In 1965, the Gambia became independent and in 2011 James Island was renamed Kunta Kinteh Island to commemorate the slaves who passed through the island.