History of Sierra Leone
The name Sierra Leone dates back to 1462 when Portuguese explorer Pedro da Cintra discovered the peninsular mountains as he sailed down the coast of West Africa. Some say he named them ‘Sierra Lyoa’ (Lion Mountains in Portuguese) because the roar of thunder rolling over the mountains sounded like a lion, others say it was because of their shape, which resembled a crouching lion. Either way, the name stuck. An English sailor later changed the name to Serraliona and from there it became Sierra Leone.
Through the efforts of philanthropists, Britain abolished slavery and a naval base was established in Freetown to intercept slave ships. Freetown became a settlement for freed slaves in 1787 and was called the ‘Province of Freedom.’ By 1792, 1,200 freed slaves from Nova Scotia and a large number from Maroon in the 1800s joined the original settlers from England. In 1808, the area of Freetown officially became a British Crown Colony and trade commenced between the indigenes and the settlers. This paved the gateway for the British to extend their rule into the outer provinces and in 1896, a protectorate was declared.
During British colonialism, Sierra Leone served as the seat of Government for other British colonies along the West Coast of Africa. Fourah Bay College was established in 1827 and was the first college for higher education south of the Sahara. English speaking Africans flocked there and it quickly earned Sierra Leone the title of the ‘Athens of West Africa’ for its early achievements in the fields of medicine, law and education.