Much as Algeria would be the lynchpin to the French colonial empire in North Africa, the lands that would become Senegal would serve a simlar role for the French in West Africa. In the period between the eleventh and twelfth centuries the Takrur polity arose in the valley of the Senegal River, becoming one of the first sub-Saharan regions to adopt Islam and spawning a Muslim revival movement, the Muwahhidun, that would conquer much of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula as the Almoravids. The following two centuries would witness the region's incorporation into the great Mande Empire of Mali, serving as that inland Empire's "window to the water" when Portuguese explorers made their voyages down the coast of West Africa in the late fifteenth century.
During the following century the dramatic growth in trade between Africans inland and Europeans at trade posts along the coast, first in gold, later in slaves, would cause the power of Mali to recede back to the interior, and loosely organized as a confederation under the ruler of Jolof, would come to dominate the lands between the Senegal and the Niger, while a Mande offshoot would come to dominate the lower Gambia river, and the Senegal River valley would come under the dominance of the Muslim Fula. On the coast, the Europeans struggled with each other to dominate the main trade post on Goree Island, just off the western tip of Senegal, with the Portuguese, Dutch, British contolling it in turn until the French finally secured their control, a control further enhanced with the establishment of the French trade post at Saint-Louis at the mouth of the Senegal River, tolerating a British presence at the mouth of the Gambia river at Bathurst, and laying the foundation for the odd geographic relic of Gambia surrounded by Senegal.
French control over the trade posts would provide the French with the basis for further expansion, which would be taken up in the 1850s with the appointment of General Louis Faidherbe as governor of Senegal. Fearing French influence was being diverted by the greater economic influence of the British in Gambia, Faidherbe came to believe that the only way to secure France's control of the trade of the Senegal Valley was through direct rule. This was reinforced by the rise a powerful new Muslim state in the Upper Senegal, Tukulor, whose influence began to spread downriver as well as challenge the rule of native non-Muslim states in the interior of Senegal. A series of wars in the 1850s would result in the Tukulor recentering their power to the Upper Niger river, and France gaining dominance in the Senegal Valley. To further French aims, In 1859 Faidherbe would also shift the center of French power in Senegal from Saint-Louis on the Senegal to a new base at Dakar, opposite Goree Island.
The shift to Dakar would be the first step in the eventual full conquest of what is now Senegal by the French. Western industrialization had led to a massive demand for vegetable oils to keep machines running, and Senegal was found to be the perfect place to grow peanuts for industrial use. At first local Senegalese rulers welcomed the new economic activity, but in the 1880s, when the French proposed building railways, local leaders such as Lat Dior feared the result would be complete French domination. For the remainder of the decade the French would turn to military options against local African states to "secure" Senegal, which soon came to be seen by some in Paris as the springboard from which France could create an empire in Africa "From the Atlantic to the Nile." By 1888 the French conquest in Senegal was complete, the military frontier against local African states had moved inland to the Niger Valley, and negotiations with Britain and Portugal would establish the colonial frontiers. A mosaic of ethnic groups would come to inhabit the colony, with the Wolof being the largest single group but also including Serer, Fula, Mande and several other peoples. In 1905, to "rationalize" its growing empire in West Africa, the French would create a colonial federation - French West Africa - with the Governor-General and federal administration based in Dakar.
Coastal Senegal would occupy a special place in the French sub-Saharan Empire in Africa. Four communities - Dakar, Goree, Saint-Louis and Rufisque - were considered full French communes, and its inhabitants full French citizens, regardless of race. While the rest of the inhabitants of the French colonial empire in sub-Saharan Africa were treated as sujets, subjects who like the native population of Algeria had few rights whatsoever in face of the power of French colonial administrators, the inhabitants of the Quatre Communes had full political rights, and by the early twentieth century they began to use those rights to encourage a more equal relationship between France and the colonies. In 1914 Blaise Diagne would be elected from Senegal as the first African to sit in the French Chamber of Deputies. Political parties and Labor Unions soon arose. With the establishment of the Ecole William Ponty, Dakar would become the center for education of a new generation of Africans, the "evoules" (evolved) who would join the French administration and, it was hoped, would create a new generation of "imperial Frenchmen" tied to the glory of France.
Unfortunately for the French, the hopes that the creation of an assimilated minority of Africans would permanently wed the Empire to France would fail in face of the rise of African nationalism, which resented continued European French domination of the levers of power in Africa and the economic development of African resources for the benefit of French commercial interests. France's defeat in 1940, and the resulting civil war between Vichy and the Free French (brought right to Senegal's doorstep when the British and Free French attempted but failed to seize Dakar from the pro-Vichy colonial regime in the autumn of 1940), futher diminished the belief that French leadership was needed to "guide" Senegal and the rest of the French Empire in Africa to "civilization." For most of the colonial period, French colonial rule had been based on the principle that development would come from the natural evolution of the market economy, while the colonies themselves were expected to pay for social improvements like education. This benefitted the French colonial rulers, but did little for the mass of peoples, and with the end of World War II calls for a "new relationship" were increasingly made.
The French did make some attempts at this, ending the implementation of the "indigenat" law code in 1946 and making all sujets "citizens" of the colonies they lived in (but NOT of France - in both the colonies and in France the idea that colonial subjects could be transformed into "Frenchmen" had been replaced with the idea of "Association" and "Cooperation"). The colonies gained representation in the French Parliament, and although the right to vote was at first limited to a small elite it did allow for the creation of a new generation of African political leaders who would work within the system to improve colonial conditions. An economic fund to develop France's colonies paid for by the French State, FIDES, was launched in the early 1950s. But in terms of politics, the French colonial administrators believed they needed to remain in firm control, and African political leaders who were seen to challenge that idea faced political persecution.
Indochina and Algeria changed all that. The defeat at Dienbienphu and the anti-French insurgency in Algeria led to increasing demands among sub-Saharan African political leaders that the time had come for political power to be handed over. In Senegal, the principal leader was Leopold Sedar Senghor, an academic who had been elected to represent Senegal in the French Parliament in the first postwar elections of 1946. A moderate socialist who promoted the ideas of negritude - pride in the historical and cultural attainments of Africans and peoples of African descent - Senghor had a close relationship with the French intellectual establishment, and greatly respected French culture. Senghor would come to believe that Senegal's future lay in cooperation with, but not dominance by, France, while working to "nativize" the political and economic system for the benefit of all Senegalese, and worked hard to convince other French colonial African leaders of the same and promoted the idea of transforming French West Africa into a single federated state. The leaders of the other colonies of French West Africa however, feared Senegalese political domination, while wealthier areas such as Senegal and the Ivory Coast feared the financial cost of supportig economically less well off regions. After a brief attempt at forming a federation with the French Sudan as the Federation of Mali in 1960 failed, Senghor led Senegal to full independence.
Since 1960, Senegal has been one of the few African nations to maintain a relatively democratic political system. In part this may be due to the legacy of the traditions of local government practiced in the original Quatre Communes and the experience of voting for a Senegalese delegate to the French Parliament after 1871. A large part is also due to Senghor. Although in the 1960s Senegal would in effect become a one-party state, legally the right to form political parties remained valid during Senghor's rule, and the press in Senegal remained generally free from poltical influence. Senghor also was generally pro-Western (and especially pro-French) in his foreign policy, and encouraged an economy that was relatively open to foreign investment. Traditional industries such as peanuts and mining were joined by tourism as engines of economic development, while the generally tranquil political enviroment in Dakar would make it a center for regional organizations. In 1980 Senghor resigned due to advanced age (one of the first sub-Saharan African leaders to give up power of their own will), and his successor, Abdou Diouf, continued his policies, and would go further than Senghor in terms of economic liberalization. While not all of the economic policies have been successful (in part due to the colonial inheritance of relying on the export of peanuts as the main engine of economic growth when a new generation of synthetic lubricants was replacing natural oils), Senegal's economy has grown at a rate more dynamic than many other African nations.
With the end of the Cold War, sub-Saharan Africa would experience a political "awakening" that would lead to further democratic reforms and by the early 1990s new political parties challenging some of the economic and cultural policies of the Senghor-Diouf era began to emerge. While Diouf at times could employ a heavy hand towards his political opponents (and would face an insurgency in the southern Casamance region, a region culturally and ethnically very different from the rest of Senegal and resentful of what many in the region pereceive is Wolof domination of Senegalese politics and society), in general Senegal maintained its democratic institutions, and in 2000 this culminated in Diouf's defeat for a third term as president and the election of Abdoulaye Waye. Further solidification would come in 2011 when Waye was defeated for president by Macky Sall. While it still faces many economic challenges, Senegal remains one of the more successful post-colonial States in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Philatelic Legacy of History
Philatelically, the history of Senegal represents the impact of the establishment, flourishing and demise of the French colonial era and its replacement with the post-colonial State. The Quatre Communes used stamps of France starting in the 1850s, and usage of these stamps in Senegal can be determined by cancellations. By the 1880s, however, the establishment of a full French colonial regime in Senegal outside the communes and the growth of commerical activity would lead to the creation of a separate postal system with its own postage stamps. The first stamps were provisional surcharges on Imperial-Wide French Colonies stamps issued in 1887, and in 1892 the first regular issue of postage stamps inscribed "Senegal" was placed on sale.
The decision by the French to create a Federation of their colonial holdings in West Africa would be reflected shortly thereafter. Each colony retained its own identity and local administration (including postal service), but was subsumed under the administration of the Federation based in Dakar. This resulted in the issuance of stamps in 1906 with both the colony name (Senegal) and the Federation Name (French West Africa, Afrique Occidental Française) on the stamps.
In 1914 this series (which depicted General Faidherbe on the lower values) was replaced in Senegal by the long-running pictoral series depicting a Fula market in the Senegal Valley. This series would run until 1933, and because of Senegal's larger volume of commerce and coorespondence,would be the subject of several reprints that can be categorized into one of three types depending on the length of the central vignette. (This is where having a specialized catalog really becomes useful. Neither Scott nor Michel, nor even Yvert & Tellier mention these types, but they are fully documented in the excellent Catalogue Maury Timbre de l'ex-empire Français d'Afrique).
A new pictorial series debuted for Senegal in 1935, and omnibus issues for the Paris exhibitions of 1931 and 1937, and the New York Exhibition of 1939, were released. World War II and the tribulations of France are reflected in Senegal's philately more clearly than other areas, as the Vichy-printed Child Welfare and Imperial Fortnight issues actually would be placed on sale for use in French West Africa.
After the war, the new emphasis of the French on "cooperative development" would lead to a further "rationalization" of government in French West Africa, and the individual colonial postal administrations were replace by one Federation-wide system in 1945. For the next fifteen years stamps were produced to highlight France's efforts at development while at the same time highlighting the diverse cultural and geographic panorama of the Federation. The failure of political leaders such as Senghor to transform the colonial federation into a single independent Federal state would be documented in the one year of stamps released by the Federation of Mali and then the celebration of Senegal's independence in 1960.
Since 1960, Senegal's postage stamps have reflected, as they do in most newly-decolonized nations, the trials and tribulations of nation building and carving a place for itself in the world. Unlike some African nations, Senegal's philatelic output has been reasonably conservative and focused on depicting themes relavent to local society (although there have been lapses when Senegal would go on the "philatelic agent" wagon, such as in 1991 and 1999, but these have tended to be brief flirtations and in the end Senegal would return to a more sober philatelic program). In the 1960s and 1970s many of Senegal's stamps were printed by engraving in France, and some of them really are masterworks of the engravers' art. The natural beauty of Senegal is highlighted often, as the Senegalese State has made tourism a priority for economic development. The diversity of Senegalese society - both ethnically and religiously (a majority of Senegalese are Muslim, but there are Christian minorities and Senghor himself was a Christian. Officially like France, Senegal is a secular state) - is well reflected. For the collector, overall Senegal is a wonderful nation to collect.
My Stamp Collection
Currently my collection runs up to the late 1960s, but Senegal is definitely a country whose later issues I plan to collect as well. As far as organziation, my Senegal collection will be in two volumes
I. Senegal - Colonial Era (1887-1959) and the Senghor Era (1959-1980)
II. Senegal - The post-Senghor era (1980-present)
I have posted PDF files for the first volume in 4 parts - Colonial Senegal, French West Africa, the short-lived Federation of Mali (which I include with Senegal as the capital of the Federation was Dakar) and the Senghor Era. I have not yet had a chance to do album pages for the post-1980 era, these will be posted at a later date.
And now - the collection. Enjoy!
Volume I Part I - Senegal in the Colonial Era (1887-1944)
Page 1 : No Stamps (1887 Surcharges)
Page 2 : 1892 Type "Groupe" (aka Navigation and Commerce)
Page 3 : 1900 Additional Values to Type "Groupe" and 1906 First AOF Issue
Page 4 : 1912 Surcharges on Type "Groupe" and Chalky Paper versions of 1914 Fula Market Series
Page 5 : Series of 1914 Issues (type I - central vignette 22mm long) and 1915 WWI Charity Issues
Page 6 : Series of 1915 Postage Dues, 1918 WWI Charity Issue and
1920 reprint of 1914 Series, type II (central vignette 22.5mm long)
Page 7 : 1922 New Values & Colors to series of 1914, types I and II, 1922 Surcharges
Page 8 : 1923-1926 new values and colors to series of 1914, new print type III
(central vignette 23mm long), surcharged issues for new postal rates.
Page 9 : 1926-1927 new values and colors to series of 1914, types II and III, surcharged issues
Page 10 : 1927-1929 new values and colors to series of 1914, types II and III, surcharged issues, 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition issue
Page 11 : 1930-1933 new values and colors to series of 1914, types II and III, and Series of 1935 Postage Due Stamps
Page 12 : Series of 1935 Pictorials - Faidherbe Bridge over Senegal River and the Grand Mosque of Jurbel
Page 13 : Series of 1935 Airmails (Plane over River, Plane over Camel Caravan), 1937 Paris International Exhibition, 1938 New Design addition to Series of 1935 (Native Woman)
Page 14 : 1939 Rene Caillie Centenary Issue, 1939 new values and colors to Series of 1935-1938, 1939 New York World's Fair and Bicentennial of French Revolution
Page 15 : 1940 Redesign of Airmail Series of 1935, additional values and new colors for series of 1935 pictorials.
Page 16 : 1942 Vichy Charity issues for Native Welfare, 1944 Surcharges on Series of 1935 (listed in Scott under French West Africa).
Volume I Part II - French West Africa (1944-1959)
Page 1 : Imperial Cooperation, Memorial to Felix Eboue (first colonial governor to rally to Free France), "Free French" Series of 1945 (printed in London) depicting Senegalese Tirailleur and North African Harki, Airmail Series of 1945.
Page 2 : Allied Victory in World War II, General LeClerc's March from Chad to the Rhine, Series of 1947 Postage Dues
Page 3 : Pictorial Series of 1947 Regular Issues and Airmail Stamps (one missing stamp is a shade variety of the 10c stamp)
Page 4 : Issues of 1947-1954 - reinscribed values from 1947 series (legend "TOGO" removed as Togo was a UN Mandate, not part of FWA), UPU 75th anniversary, Opening of Vridi Canal in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, colonial development, Airmail Series of 1954, Fiftieth anniversary of creation of Federation.
Page 5 : Issues of 1955-1957 - Wildlife, Rotary, promotion of FIDES work, Coffee production, centenary of creation of the French African army by General Faidherbe.
Page 6 : Issues of 1957-1958 - Infrastructure development, African Tourism Conference, Establishment of new capital for Mauritania at Nuwakshut, Centenary of founding of Dakar by the French, Series of 1958 Official Stamps
Page 7 : Issues of 1958-1959 : Flora, Banana Exports, UN Declaration of Human Rights, Restoration of the Colony of Upper Volta
Volume I Part III - Federation of Mali (1959-1960)
Page 1 : Issues of 1959-1960 - 300th Anniversary of founding of Saint-Louis, UN Technical Cooperation Agency for Africa, Series of 1960 Fish Definitives, Series of 1960 Bird Airmails.
Volume I Part IV - Independent Senegal : The Senghor Era (1960-1980)
Page 1 : No Stamps - Series of 1960-1961 Fauna of Senegal Regular and Airmail Issues, Series of 1961 Postage Dues, First Anniversary of Senegal's Independence
Page 2 : Issues of 1961-1962 - Traditional Festivals, Series of 1961 Official Stamps, Senegal in the United Nations, Formation of African-Madagascar Union
Page 3 : Issues of 1962-1963 - African-Madagascar Postal Union, Senegal in the UPU, Professor Gaston Berger, UN Freedom From Hunger and 1963 Friendship Games in Dakar.
Page 4 : Issues of 1963-1964 - Butterflies, Senegalese Red Cross, UN Campaign to save Nubian Monuments, Twin Cities Congress in Dakar, UN Declaration of Human Rights Anniversary
Page 5 : Issues of 1964 - Development of Senegal's Mining Industry, Memorial to John F Kennedy, 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, Europe-Africa Cooperation, Religious Architecture in Senegal, French Satellite Launch
Page 6 - Issues of 1965- Anti-Leprosy Campaign, Postal History, Tourism Promotion, Development of Agriculture, International Cooperation Year, Centenary of International Telecom Union, Traditional Canoes
Page 7 - no stamps, issues of 1965-1966 - Fruits & Nuts, Traditional Dolls from Goree Island, World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Fish, French Satellites
Page 8 - issues of 1966 - Satellite launches, national coat of arms, Series of 1966 Official and Postage Due Stamps, Anniversary of Death of Aviation Pioneer Jean Mermoz
Page 9 - No stamps - issues of 1966-1967 - UN Hydrological Decade, Tourism Promotion, New International Airport at Dakar-Yoff, 1967 International Exposition in Montreal, Lions Clubs
Page 10 - Issues of 1967-1968 : African-Madagascar Postal Union, African Congress on Prehistory, Dakar, Memorial to Konrad Adenauer, International Human Rights Year, New values in Fauna of Senegal series
Page 11 - Issues of 1968-1969 : Rinderpest Campaign, World Health Organization, 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, 1969 Year of African Tourism, Philexafrique '69 Stamp Exhibition, New values in Fauna of Senegal series
Volume I Part V - Souvenir Sheets
Page 1 - 1937 Paris International Exhibition Souvenir Sheet and
1959 Centenary of Dakar Souvenir Sheet
and that completes my collection of Senegal....for now!
Comments, questions, please ask!