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By Margaret Binns

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History Sierra Leone's written history began in the 15th century with the first visits by Portuguese explorers and traders. In 1447 an expedition under the command of Alvaro Fernandez anchored in the Rokel estuary, which soon became known as the 'watering place', as it was an important source of fresh water and wood for Europeans on their way to and from India. Gradually the Portuguese began to stay longer and set up trading posts. At first European goods such as household utensils, clothes and weapons, were exchanged for gold Page xxiii and ivory, but with the opening up of the plantations in America in the 1550s, slaves became an important commodity.

The secret societies foster a sense of solidarity among their members, and the leaders, who are often extremely knowledgeable and experienced in traditional medicine, are powerful members of the community. Religion Many people still hold animist beliefs, believing in a supreme god and a series of lesser gods embodied in natural features such as hills, trees and rocks. Islam and Christianity have also had strong influences on the country. Islam spread from the north, largely along trade routes from the Arabic countries, and as a result of the Futa Jallon jihad, or holy war, in the 18th century.

Therefore the majority of recent publications on Sierra Leone are produced outside the country itself, mainly in Britain and the United States. This has meant that the fact that we were unable to visit Sierra Leone while compiling this bibliography, was not a handicap, although we did communicate by post with several institutions and individuals in Sierra Leone. The resources used were the British Library for Development Studies, at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex; the University of Sussex library; and the libraries of the Page xvi Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

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