webFuuta / History

Joseph Earl Harris
The Kingdom of Fouta-Diallon

Evanston, Illinois. 1965. 180 p. (Ph.D. Dissertation in History)


This dissertation is a history of the Kingdom of Fouta Diallon from its inception in 1725, when a group of Muslim Foula leaders declared a holy war, to 1913, when the French succeeded in establishing direct colonial control. The Foula ethnic group Inhabits the western Sudan from Senegal to Chad and numbers about six million persons. The focus of this study is on the Foula of Fouta Diallon, located in northwestern Guinea. Although the approach is within a general political framework, social organization and change, economic and religious developments are also studied.
Because of the multiplicity of ethnic groups in Africa and the consequent problem of separatism in several of the emergent African nations, this writer believes that historical studies of Individual ethnic groups will provide a firm basis for the construction of national histories. While this approach concentrates on a single group, it does shed some light on the interrelationships with neighboring peoples. In the final analysis, therefore such historical studies should lead not only to more authoritative, objective national histories, but regional and continental histories as well. This dissertation represents one step toward that goal, and hopefully will encourage and help others pursue a similar objective.
Of the several works relating to Fouta-Diallon, the writer found the following helpful.

The Fouta province of Labé under colonial rule is studied in

The following books were informative accounts of the authors' roles in paving the way for French control over Fouta Diallon:

Gilbert Vieillard's works were also very helpful, particularly:

However, in none of these studies is there much analysis of general developments in Fouta Diallon and none is in English. Furthermore, each work is dated and without the benefit of the more recent archival materials. This dissertation, therefore, contributes a study of Fouta Diallon in English, based on recent materials.
The writer taught in Guinea for two years. During most of that time he lived in Fouta-Diallon and was able to conduct personal interviews with many people of different ethnic groups 1. He also examined the Guinean archives and some of the private materials of Guineans.
The choice of spelling is the writer's. Generally the French and Foula spellings have been adopted because these were the principal sources of information. Attention is called to the distinction between Foula, the people, and Fouta, the country or kingdom.
Many people have helped to make this dissertation possible. Dr. Franklin D. Scott, Professor of History and my adviser, provided invaluable advice and criticism. Very helpful comments were also received from Doctors Robert Hess and Jacques Hymans. Hans Panofsky, Curator of Africana, Northwestern University, readily made available many needed materials.
Special acknowledgment is made of the inestimable assistance of the Institut National de Recherches et De Documentation of the Republic of Guinea; the University of Dakar, and Institut Francais d'Afrique Noire, Dakar; the University College of Sierra Leone (formerly Fourah Bay College), Freetown; and Deering Library, Northwestern University.
Last but not least, my personal thanks to Rosemarie Pressley Harris, my wife.

1. See the Bibliography for a discussion of the oral sources and an acknowledgment of the interviewees, and Appendix No. 4 for some sample interviews.