History – events of the past

The boundaries of modern day Niger tell you nothing about its centuries of history. These borders enclosed no ancient kingdom or single ethnic group. Instead, some of Africa's greatest empires spilled over into the territory that became Niger.

Pre 20th century

Mosque – meeting place for Muslims
Mosque – meeting place for Muslims

Prior to the twentieth century, empires were built by those who could control the trade routes. Salt, gold and slaves were major trade items.

By the eleventh century the religion of Islam had spread from Arabia across the region. Islam united its followers, called Muslims, in a common religious and cultural bond. Cities flourished with Islamic art and architecture. Islamic principles inspired many aspects of life, from business to military conquests.

In 1805-1806, Mungo Park, a Scottish explorer attempted to trace the full course of the Niger River. He is the first known European to travel through present-day Niger.

Colonial rule

French colonial rule began in 1895, when France united its West African colonies into a federation called French West Africa. The Tuareg, who had ruled Nigerien Sahara for 1,000 years revolted against the French in 1906. For years, their frequent rebellions kept the French from turning Niger into a fully-fledged colony.

Niger finally became an official colony of French West Africa in 1922. France invested little money or effort to develop Niger. No roads or railroads were built, and little was done to develop Niger's economy. After World War 2, France began the process of releasing its colonies. In 1946, Niger was granted representation in the French Parliament. Niger gained full independence on August 3, 1960.

Modern day

Since independence Niger's progress has been limited because of political instability and droughts.

BBC Timeline of key events in modern history