Regional and global disease epidemics, which followed in the wake of the First World War, became the crucial tipping point in the balance between resistance and accommodation that had been established between the British colonial administration and newly colonized people of the Sierra Leone Protectorate. From 1915 to 1919, a smallpox epidemic and the global influenza epidemic overwhelmed the inhabitants of the northern region of Sierra Leone, severely disrupting the movement of people, agricultural production, and trade. In the wake of these epidemics and social disruptions, British colonial demands for revenue, labour, and food from Sierra Leoneans to support their European war effort became more onerous. By 1919, the surreptitious protests of the pre-war period had given way to open and violent confrontation, as anti-Syrian and rice riots swept through the urban areas of the protectorate and colony.

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