French Sudan

French Sudan

French Sudan





Quick reference

General issues: French colony 1894-1900, French colony 1920-1944

Country name on general issues: Soudan Français, Soudan

Currency: 1 Franc = 100 Centimes 1894-1899 and 1920-1944

Population: 2 984 000 in 1920, 3 797 000 in 1944

Political history French Sudan

French Sudan from 1892 until 1899

Postal history French Sudan

Please click on the image to enlarge

French Sudan is located in western Africa. France has, by the mid 19th century, established itself in western Africa in Dahomey, French Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal – primarily in the coastal regions. In the second part of the 19th century the French – starting from Senegal – gradually bring more and more of the hinterland under French control. In 1892, the French colony of French Sudan is formed. French Sudan contains the larger part of western Africa that has been awarded to the French at the conference of Berlin in 1885. In Berlin the colonial powers have divided their respective spheres of interest in Africa. In 1892, only a limited part of French Sudan has been brought under effective French control. As it is a prerequisite of the Berlin conference for continued recognition of territorial claims that the awarded territories are brought under effective colonial rule, the French set to work to extend the area under their control. Depending on the circumstances, they may do so by signing treaties with local rulers, or by military force.

1882 A local dignitary ceding his territory to French officers

1882 – A local dignitary ceding his territory to French officers

French Sudan, in 1895, becomes part of French West Africa – the federation of French possessions in western Africa formed in 1895. French West Africa is, in its early years, frequently reorganized. In 1899, French Sudan is dissolved. Parts of French Sudan are added to French Guinea and Ivory Coast, of which the borders are thus, by and large, defined as we know them until today. A part is added to Dahomey as Upper Dahomey. Upper Dahomey will be transferred back to what is then called Upper Senegal & Niger in 1907. The rest of the former French Sudan becomes the French territory of Upper Senegal & Middle Niger consisting of: one district under civil administration, two districts under military administration and a vast territory that has yet to be brought under effective French control. Upper Senegal & Middle Niger will be renamed Senegambia & Niger in 1902 and Upper Senegal & Niger in 1904.

French Sudan from 1920

PPostal history French Sudan

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French Sudan will be recreated as a separate colony from Upper Senegal & Niger in 1920 – albeit with very different borders. Mauritania became a separate French territory in 1904, Niger in 1911. Upper Volta was created in 1919 as a separate colony. The remainder of Upper Senegal & Niger will form the colony of French Sudan as we know it from 1920.

The territory of French Sudan will be changed twice more in its history.  When Upper Volta is dissolved in 1933, French Sudan gains a number of provinces that, however, are returned to Upper Volta when it is reinstated in 1947. Furthermore, French Sudan cedes the El Hodh region to Mautitania in 1944.

French Sudan, in 1946, becomes a French overseas territory and, in 1958, gains self government. In 1959, Sudan with Senegal forms the federation of Mali that will gain independence in 1960. The federation is dissolved the same year and the former French Sudan becomes the republic of Mali as we know it until today.

Postal history French Sudan

Postal history French Sudan

1931 – Sudanese woman

The first post offices, in what is to become French Sudan, are set up from Senegal in 1890. The first stamps used are the general issues for the French colonies and the stamps from Senegal. The Senegal post offices are transferred to French Sudan in 1892. The first stamps for French Sudan are issued in 1894, these being provisionals – the general issues for the French colonies overprinted ‘Soudan Fais‘ and a new face value. The first set of definitives are of the standard design for the French colonies and are issued later in the same year. A few additional values are issued in 1900. The issues from French Sudan will be used until 1903 when they are superseded by the issues from Senegambia & Niger and from 1906 by those of Upper Senegal & Niger.

Once French Sudan has been reinstated in 1920, stamps will again be issued from 1921. The first issues are overprints on the issues of Upper Senegal & Niger – the overprint reading ‘Soudan Français’. The first definitives are issued in 1931. The definitives of French Sudan are inscribed ‘Soudan’ with the additional inscription ‘Afrique Occidentale Française’ or ‘AOF’ to show that French Sudan was part of the federation of French West Africa. The stamps from French Sudan will, from 1944, be superseded by the issues of French West Africa, as is the case in all French possessions in western Africa that are part of French West Africa.

When the former French Sudan has gained self government within the federation of Mali stamps will again be issued – first by the federation of Mali, then by the republic of Mali.

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2 Responses to French Sudan

  1. Jim Jackson

    Excellent explanation of the twists and turns of the changing borders of French Sudan. !!

    Bravo Gerben!!

    • Gerben


      Thanks! As you know French West Africa is tough to get a grip on. Actually I hope to be posting an overview page on French West Africa in the next few days. You may want to check it out.


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