Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone - British possession

Sierra Leone
British possession

Sierra Leone - Independent

Sierra Leone





Quick reference

General issues: British colony 1859-1896, British colony & protectorate 1896-1961, Independent within the British Commonwealth 1961-1971, Republic 1971-Present

Country name on general issues: Sierra Leone

Currency: 1 Pound = 20 Shilling, 1 Shilling = 12 Pence 1859-1964, 1 Leone = 100 Cents 1964-Present

Population: 1 027 000 in 1900, 5 879 000 in 2015

Political history Sierra Leone

The colonial era

Postal history Sierra Leone

Please click on the image to enlarge

Sierra Leone is located in western Africa. The population consists of a number of Niger-Congo peoples – the largest population groups being the Temne and Mende peoples. The first European trade settlements in the future Sierra Leone are established by the Portuguese in the late 15th century. Since then, several European countries have had trade settlements in Sierra Leone – the trade being the slave trade. By the end of the 18th century, the British establish themselves in Freetown – a settlement primarily set up to settle freed slaves from the Americas and from ships taken from slave traders. The descendants of these freed slaves, until today, form a distinct ethnic group – the Kriole. The Kriole are a small population group with, nowadays, 2% of the population, but their language has become a lingua franca in Sierra Leone as they long served as intermediates between the British and the indigenous peoples. The name of the country is derived from the Spanish Sierra Leona or Lioness Mountains – the name for mountains around Freetown.

Sierra Leone is, in 1808, made a colony. Throughout the 19th century, it is administered as a separate colony or as part of lager entities such as, from 1866 until 1888, the British West African Settlements of which Gambia, Gold Coast and Lagos were also a part and of which Sierra Leone was the administrative center. Sierra Leone is ultimately established as a separate colony in 1888. The colony, at the time, comprised only part of the coastal region. The British in 1895 proclaim a protectorate over the interior. In establishing British rule, the British sometimes face strong opposition – most notably when a hut tax is imposed and the Mende and Temne peoples revolt in what is known as the Mende-Temne or Hut Tax war. The revolt is put down by the British in 1898. Borders are established through treaties with – French – Guinea in 1895 and with Liberia in 1885 and 1903.


A reality check: Africa may be a continent with beautiful landscapes, amazing artifacts, colorful dresses and photogenic people, but out of the top 30 of the poorest countries in the world 24 are in Africa. Kroo Bay Slum, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

A reality check: Africa may be a continent with beautiful landscapes, amazing artifacts, colorful dresses and photogenic people, but …… out of the top 30 of the poorest countries in the world 24 are in Africa. Kroo Bay Slum, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone embarks on the road to independence from the early 1950’s. Initilly, the call for independence is the strongest in the protectorate. In the late 1950’s, the first steps towards self government are made and in 1961 Sierra Leone gains full independence within the British Commonwealth. In 1971, Sierra Leone is proclaimed a republic – remaining a member of the Commonwealth until the present day.

After a few years of political stability, a series of military coups d’etat in 1967 and 1968 is the start of a period of political instability, escalating into civil war in 1991. The civil war – in which neighboring Liberia played a substantial part – will last until 2002. Since 2002, the country has been on the road to recovery with the support of the United Nations. In 2014, the United Nations have withdrawn from Sierra Leone. The secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, in 2014 stated that ‘Sierra Leone represents one of the world’s most successful cases of post-conflict recovery, peacekeeping and peacebuilding‘. 

Subsistence agriculture employs the largest part of the population in the Sierra Leone economy. The substantial mineral resources of the country have only been exploited to a limited extent, due to the decades of political instability and civil war.

Postal history Sierra Leone

Postal history Sierra Leone

1961 – Independence.Badge with lioness and mountains. Sir Milton Margai was the first prime minister of Sierra Leone

A postal officer is appointed to Sierra Leone in 1853. The first stamps are issued in 1859. Most of the issues in the colonial era are of the designs common to the British possessions. Mail from Gambia has been processed through Sierra Leone from 1853 – the stamps of Sierra Leone were valid for use in Gambia from 1861 to 1869.

The first set issued by independent Sierra Leone, in 1961, commemorates independence, showing different images of national interest. All stamps in this set show the national badge: a lioness in front of a mountain range. From the mid 1960’s, Sierra Leone has issued almost exclusively stamps aimed at the thematic collectors market – particularly, in the 1960’s, experimenting with stamps in all sorts of different shapes.

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