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East Africa (The Horn of Africa): ° Djibouti ° Kenya ° Eritrea ° Madagascar ° Somalia ° Sudan ° Tanzania ° Zanzibar


Horn of Africa: Somaliland, Aden, Djibouti, Yemen. Straits Bab-el-Mandeb. 1920.


Republique de Djibouti: The French Territory of the Afars and the Issas (French Somaliland) became Djibouti in 1977.

Djibouti occupies a very strategic geographic location at the mouth of the Red Sea and serves as an important location for goods entering and leaving the east African highlands.

During the 9th or 10th centuries, Somalis began pushing south from the Gulf of Aden coast; about the same time, the coastal region was settled by Arabs. Nomadic tribes occupied the interior, occasionally pushing into Ethiopian territory.

Explorers included the Zheng He from China during the 15th century and later the Portuguese, who attempted to establish Portuguese sovereignty over the Somali coast . . . without success. During this time, the main coastal centers continued to be controlled by Arab merchant families under the Sultanate of Oman.

During the 16th Century, Turkish rule extended to the northern coast, and the sultans of Zanzibar gained control in the south. In the early 19th century, Omani forces took over and Mogadishu became part of the Sultanate of Zanzibar.

Rochet d'Hericourt's exploration into Shoa (1839-42) marked the beginning of French interest in the African shores of the Red Sea. Further exploration by Henri Lambert, French Consular Agent at Aden, and Captain Fleuriot de Langle led to a treaty of friendship and assistance between France and the sultans of Raheita, Tadjoura, and Gobaad, from whom the French purchased the anchorage of Obock (1862).

Burton, Speke, The Nile.

Initially, the British gave little attention to Somalia; once away from the coastline, the region is mostly desert which the British deemed unprofitable. However, after 1839, the British, French and Italians began using Somalia's ports as coaling stations and as a source of food for ships enroute to India.

In 1884-85, France expanded its protectorate to include the shores of the Gulf of Tadjoura and the Somaliland. Boundaries of the protectorate were marked out in 1897 by France and Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia.

From 1884 to 1886, the British signed a number of "protectorate" treaties with Somali chiefs of the northern area. The protectorate was first administered by the resident in Aden and later (1907) by the Colonial Office. From 1899 to 1920, British rule was disrupted by Abdallah bin Hasan's Holy War.

In 1862, the French established a coal-mining station at the site of Djibouti and the Italians settled in Eritrea. During 1888, the French and British confronted each other over their shares of the coast. The area around Djibouti became known as the "Cote Francaise des Somalis (French Coast of the Somalis), and the English stayed around Zeila and Berbera where they promised protection to various Somali clans.

Italian expansion in Somalia began in 1885, when Antonio Cecchi, an explorer, led an Italian expedition into the lower Juba region and established a commercial treaty with the sultan of Zanzibar.

September 21, 1889, London Daily Mail, London, United Kingdom

Her Struggles After a Colonial Empire

Daily Mail Special

There is perhaps no international subject of greater interest at the present moment than French progress in Africa, and two articles in the current number of the "Board of Trade Journal" will therefore have a special interest.

One of these articles relates to "the trade of the British, French, and German Possessions in West Africa," and is accompanied by a coloured sketch map of West Africa (a new departure for the "Board of Trade Journal"); the other article relates to the development of Djibouti, in East Africa.

From the first of these articles it seems apparent, judging from the trade figures given, that West Africa is decidedly not booming just now. With the exception of small increases in the exports from the Gold Coast and Gambia, British West Africa is under a commercial cloud; the German colony of Togoland is in a most serious way, the exports having declined from a value of 152,000 in 1895, to 39,000 in 1837; and French Guinea and Dahomey also report decreases in the reports of 1897 compared with 1896, though these decreases are more than compensated by increases in the exports from Senegal and the Ivory Coast,

But, notwithstanding the above-mentioned decline in the export trade of French Gumea, it is contended that the colony is, on the whole, in a condition of


The imports, at any rate, are increasing. French Guinea, it is well to bear in mind, is a standing menace to our own colony of Sierra Leone, the coast line of French Guinea is, roughly, about the same length as that of Sierra Leone, which it adjoins. But the convenient hinterland doctrine has been exploited to such an extent by the Frenchmen that their colony has enveloped the back regions of Sierra Leone, and includes the sources of the Niger, from which it shuts off the British colony. The mischief to Sierra Leone does not end here. On the French Guinea coast there is a port called Konakry, which the French have been" careful to improve, with the result, according to "La Politique Coloniale," that this port is atitracting much of the trade which hitherto was done by Sierra Leone. A road is being constructed from Konakry to a place called Farana on the Niger in the hinterland behind Sierra Leone. And when it is finished, "La Polititjue Coloniale" asserts, the merchandise of Timbuctoo, Segu Sikano (farther down the Niger in the French Sudan), and other important places on the Niger, will reach the French port of Konakry by an easily traversed and all-French route.

France seems equally enterprising higher up the Coast in Senegal, where she is busy with the establishment of a coaling depot and port of call at Dakart; and the writer in the "Board of Trade Journal" apprehends that in consequence Dakart" is destined to become one of the most important ports on the West Coast of Africa. Nor has France forgotten tho eastern side of the Continent. In French Somaliland, on the Gulf of Aden, are the two ports of Obock and Djibouti, of which the latter is


and from which a railway is being constructed to Harrar, whereby it is hoped to open up an important trade with the whole of Ethiopia. According to the "Politique Coloniale," the population of Djiboutil, which a year ago numbered 85 Europeans and about 4,000 natives, now numbers upwards of 1,400 Europeans and 8,000 natives; and if M. Beduel, of the French East Africa Company, is to be trusted, Djiboutil is likely to continue its development. This gentleman declared Djiboutil to be th eonly safe anchorage on the Red Sea, and of great importance as an outlet for the trade of that part of the African Continent.

Undoubtedly France intends, by means of her possessions in Somaliland, to cultivate dose commercial relations with Abyssinia and the Eastern Sudan, and to drive a wedge of French virtual or acfcoal possession across the widest part ot the African Continent, in rivalry to England's Cape to Cairo scheme.

In 1889, Italy established protectorates over the eastern territories then under the nominal rule of the sultans of Obbia and of Alula; and in 1892, the sultan of Zanzibar leased concessions along the Indian Ocean coast to Italy.

The largest portions of the coastal region were claimed by both Italy and Ethiopia, which erupted in war by 1896 and the defeat of the Italians.

By 1896-1897, Ethiopia was granted the Ogaden and is ceded the southern strip of British Somaliland.

Thursday, October 14, 1897, The Bristol Times and Mirror

Crushing Defeat of the Abyssinians.
The Rumoured Massacre of a British Expedition.
Interview with Mr. J. Benet Stanford.

Reuter's Special Service

The Victorians at War. 1815 to 1914. A representative of Reuter's Agency yesterday had an interview with Mr. J. Benet Stanford, who has just returned direct from Somaliland, regarding whose safety anxiety was felt in consequence of the reported massacre of a British expedition in that region.

In reply to questions, Mr. Benet Stanford said: I believe the reported massacre of an expedition by Abyssinians to be nonsense. There are no expeditions in Somililand to cut up. Mr. Peel, who was with me, is well away to the south. Lord Delamere and Dr. Atkinson are in the neighbourhood of Lake Rudolph, Major Macdonald is on the trade route towards Uganda, and the Cavendish expedition is on the Kikyuy road. The whole story is probably founded on a baseless native rumor.

Regarding his own expedition, Mr. Benet Stanford said: My wife and myself and friend, Mr. Peel, left England in May last for Somaliland, our object being to reach the headwaters of the Juba or Gana river and to get some shooting in a part of the country that is scarcely known. We were, too, anxious to reach Sheikh Nussein, a very interesting place built of stone. This was our principal objective point. We travelled via Aden to Berbera, where we got our caravan together, taking with us stores for nine months.

Somaliland Camel Corps. 1938.

We wanted 100 camels, but, finding them difficult to get, we had to content ourselves with 40. We also had ponies, mules, and a trotting camel for carrying despatches. We had as an escort a headman and 60 Somalis, armed with 50 carbines.

After a week in Berbera we went on for about 100 miles with part of our caravan to Ballymarolly, where we spent two or three weeks, and where we were joined by the rest of our escort. The day after their arrival a despatch came out from Berbera with orders from the Political Resident at Aden that we were not to go south of parallel 8 or west of 45, which means that we were to keep clear of the Abyssinians. Naturally, we were greatly annoyed at this, more especially as we knew there was nothing to fear from the Abyssinians. As I had my wife with me, I could not well go on, in view of this order; but my friend, Mr. Peel, decided to proceed, despite the Resident's warning, and he left us, continuing his journey south as originally planned. I have not heard of him since. He left us at Farfanya at the end of June, but he is perfectly safe, and there need not be the slightest anxiety regarding him.

1903 Bikanir Camel Corps. Somaliland. Balloon Aldershot. My wife and myself then turned west, and went into an unknown part of the land, and during our four and a half months' stay we had some very fair sport. My wife shoots a good deal, and she was fortunate in securing a rhinoceros, several leopards and hartebeests; in fact, we secured a very good bag. The weather was very hot and dry, and we enjoyed good health. Later we turned to the west, and marched slowly back to Berbera, from which place we came direct home. Everywhere we found the people most friendly. All Somalis in the interior were armed with Remingtons or Italian rifles, each having 40 or 50 rounds of ammunition.

For the most part, those arms had been imported through Obock by the French, the remainder having been taken from the Abyssinians, who had captured them from Italians.

Antique Map of Africa.

We did not come across any Abyssinians while in the interior (continued Mr. Stanford). We came across Noor Bori, a powerful Somali chief, who had just come back from fighting the Abyssinians. He told me that an Abyssinian force under Ras Makonnen, consisting of 3,000 armed men, had been raiding down Webbe Shebeyli nearly as far as the 45th parallel. Noor Bori's orders to his men were not to attack the Abyssinians, but to wait until the latter had emptied their rifles, and then rush upon them. This they did with great success. The Abyssinian force, he said, was annihilated, only Si Eati being sent back to carry the news of the defeat. Ras Makonnen, he told me, was himself killed. This disaster had taken place at the end of June, at a spot about 100 miles from where we were at the time. The whole neighborhood was greatly excited, and the possession of so many Italian rifles by the Somalis there left very little doubt that what the Somali chief told me was correct. The latest news from Harrar was that an Abyssinian army was on the point of being dispatched against the Somalis, who were eagerly looking forward to another fight. I sent full details of this disaster to the British officials at Aden.

Asked, in conclusion, if he had seen anything of the Government expedition under Major Macdonald, which had gone into the interior in connection with the Abyssinian frontier questions, Mr. Benet Stanford replied: So far as we could learn Major Macdonald's object was to finally settle with the Governor of Harar questions connected with the Somali boundary, Menelik considering himself to be the ruler of the country right down to Mombasa. Major Macdonald at first intended to go up the Juba, but afterwards changed his plans, and he proposed to go up the Uganda road to Kikuyu, using the railway as far as possible, and to proceed to Lake Rudolph, following Count Teleki's route, afterwards working back across Somaliland.

Italians in Somalia.

At the Berlin Conference of 1884, the scramble for Africa started the long and bloody process of the imperial partition of Somali lands. The French, British, and Italians came to Somalia in the late 19th century. The British signed treaties with the clans in what was known after as British Somaliland which was a protectorate in 1886 after the withdrawal of Egypt.

Egypt sought to prevent European colonial expansion in Northeast Africa. The southern area, was colonised by Italy in 1889, became known as Italian Somaliland. Mohammed Abdullah Hassan (Maxamed Cabdulle Xasan, Sayyid), born in the north of the Somali peninsula, was a religious, nationalist and controversial leader. Known to the British as the "Mad Mullah", he spent 20 years leading armed resistance to the British, Italian, and Ethiopian forces in Somalia.

Haji Mahomed Bui Abdullah, Known as the Mad Mullah, was often defeated by the British.

The Mad Mullah of Somalia.

Born into the Ogaden sub-clan of the Darod, Hassan grew up in among the Dhulbahante pastoralists who were good herdsmen and warriors and who used camels as well as horses. Young Hassan's hero was his maternal grandfather Sade Mogan who was a great warrior chief.

Between 1900 and 1907, the Italian leaders tried several times to negotiate a land deal with the Geledi Sultan based in Afgoye and his Biyo-maal and Digil warriors.

In 1905 more than 1,000 Biyo-maal and Tunni warriors, along with a large number of Italians, were killed when the Italian army attacked in an attempt to gain their objectives. Though many Somali warriors were killed during the war, they still defeated the enemy and succeeded in protecting the Benadir coast. After a long and bloody battle, the Italian leaders allied with other Somali tribes and their combined strength finally destroyed the Sultan's forces.

Monday, December 15, 1902, Fort Wayne Sentinel, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Dark Somaliland but Little Known of this Odd Corner of Eastern Africa

Inhabited by a Nomadic Race Descended from the Arabs -- Their Strange Religious Beliefs -- Why England Must Crush the Mollah England seems never to be entirely at peace.

Always there appears to be fighting in some one of her colonies or dependencies. Her latest trouble with the Had Mollah, by which two British officers and a hundred men were slain, has aroused the foreign office, and a punishing force has been sent to crush that troublesome individual. General W. H. Manning, who will have charge of affairs in Somaliland, is the principal military officer in the foreign office and secretary of the protectorate of Somaliland. His familiarity with the land of the Mad Mollah augurs ill for the welfare of that fanatic.

Arabs describe as "Bar Agan," or the "Unknown Land,"' that particular horn of Africa's eastern coast which lies directly opposite Aden, called Somali, and which from time immemorial has enjoyed so evil a reputation that not only has it been avoided by the vast majority of explorers of the Dark Continent, but has likewise in the partition of the latter by the great powers of Europe been left untouched save as regards the coast line, none of them caring to assume the responsibilities of the sovereignty of the hinterland.

There is an Italian, an English, an Abyssinian and a French Somaliland. But the rule of none, of these four nations extends beyond the littoral, and as long as there is no undue attempt on the part of the natives of the hinterland to interfere with the trade that finds its outlet and inlet at the various stations on the coast the tribes of the interior are left to fight among themselves as much as they please, and no attempt is made to bring them under subjection. The Somalis are a nomadic race and claim to be descended from fugitive Arabs who, abandoning their own country, landed on the Somali coast, subsequently intermarrying with the local tribes. The dawn of the Somali people coincides with the rise of Mohammed some 1,200 or 1,300 years ago. They, however, do not belong to the true African race, for they reveal no signs of the negroid type and from a slight resemblance in language are believed to be allied to the races of Hindustan.

The British Reverse in Somaliland.

The Camel Corps Disaster
Somaliland Disaster
Late Captain Cornfield
Brave Officer's Mistake

The British Reverse in Somaliland.

October 1, 1913, London

A Blue Book has just been issued, in which the recent disaster to the camel corps in Somaliland is dealt with.

It shows that Mr. Lewis Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, early In 1913 disapproved of the splitting up of the camel corps or the extension of its sphere of operations.

Mr. Q. Archer, Acting Commissioner, testified to the bravery and energy of the late Captain R. C. Corfield, the commander of the corps, and reluctantly charged him with committing a rash act, involving the Protectorate Government in a severe set-back.

Captain G. H. Summers, of the Indian Contingent, vainly advised Captain Corfield not to risk an attack by the Dervishes.

Mr. Harcourt, in commenting on the evidence, states that the disaster was due to Captain Corfield's "complete disregard of instructions."

Mr. Archer has been gazetted a Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, in recognition of the work he performed in regard to the relief expedition.

The religion professed by the Somalis that is to say, the most fanatical type of Islam has the effect of keeping them engaged in constant warfare with their neighbors, the Abyssinians, who profess what is probably the lowest class of Christianity. Indeed, one of the most cherished objects of the Somali and, in fact, of all the warlike Mohammedan tribes of that portion of Africa, has been to prevent Abyssinia from securing or retaining possession of a seaport on the northeast coast of the Dark Continent.

This is due to an ancient Mohammedan prophecy, according to which Mecca, the most holy place of Islam, will one day be razed to the ground by the Abyssinians, an event which will be attended by the most disastrous consequences for the whole of the Moslem world.

It is owing to this belief that the British must crush the Mad Mollah, since to leave him unconquered would place them in bad light not only with the Egyptian army, but also in the eyes of the 80,000,000 Mohammedans in India.

To abandon Somaliland to his sway would work incalculable damage to her power and prestige in all other Mohammedan countries under her rule. Not only must he be defeated, but crushed absolutely. For in the case of Islam more than In in of any other creed the authenticity of the mahdis and prophets is gauged by the degree of their success against the infidels, and the leaders of any armed religious movement are not relegated to the ranks of false prophets until defeat, capture or death has convinced their coreligionists that they were frauds.

This is the task assigned to General Manning. To assist him he will have the troops already in Somaliland and an extra brigade from India. That he will eventually succeed is certain, but at what cost remains to be seen.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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