Ethnic map of Senegal (1853), depicting its pre-colonial states prior to French colonisation. Image Credit: WikiCommons

For much of its history, Senegal has been incorporated into various East African empires, including Ghana, Mali, and Songhai. By the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries several small chiefdoms had been established in southern Senegal, including the Sine and Waalo chiefdoms. These were later absorbed largely into the Jolof Empire, however the arrival of Europeans saw these chiefdoms turn to global trade in an attempt to survive. The Senegalese coast was utilised by Dutch and Portuguese traders, before becoming a setting for Anglo-French rivalry in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After the Napoleonic Wars the Four Communes of Saint-Louis, Dakar, Gorée, and Rufisque were extended rights of full French citizenship in 1848, though these rights were restricted and not fully exercised by Africans. The election of deputies from the Communes kept a tie between France and Senegal, however independence movements in the 1950s encouraged Senegal to break away, with Senegal declaring independence in 1960. This removed all monarchical rule from the region formally.

In many of the minor chiefdoms and kingdoms noted above, the title of lingeer was granted to the mother or sister of the king. These women held much importance for their lineage but also were noteworthy for their resistance to colonial conquest. You can find out more about one of these lingeer, Ndoye Demba, below!


Barry, Boubacar. Le Royaume du Waalo: le Sénégal avant la conquête. Paris: Karthala Editions, 1985

Barry, Boubacar. The Kingdom of Waalo: Senegal Before the Conquest. New York City: Diasporic Africa Press, 2012

Sheldon, Kathleen E. Historical dictionary of women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Volume I. Oxford: Scarecrow Press, 2005

Sheldon, Kathleen E. Historical dictionary of women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Volume II. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2016.

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