Britain’s first contact with the Somali along the northern coast of Somalia began in the early 19th century. It was linked with the development of trade and transport between Europe and India via the Red Sea.
In 1827 the British signed a trade treaty with Berbera, and in 1839 the British captured the port of Aden. This prompted the expeditions by Johnstone to Berbera in 1842 and Burton to Harar in 1854. In 1855 further treaties were signed between the British and the Somalis.
|Aden, on the coast of Arabia, c.1835. © NMM|
British detachments from the Aden garrison occupied the towns of Zeila and Berbera in 1884. From that time until January 1885 the British government entered into treaties with all of the Somali tribes under its protection. The area occupied by those tribes was called British Somaliland.
|The British Consulate, Zanzibar. © NMM|
However, when IBEAC collapsed the British government sub-let the Benadir coast north of the Juba river to Italy in 1889. This region became Italian Somaliland.
The area occupied by the Somali people was further divided in 1897 by treaties between Ethiopia, France, Italy and Britain. The complete division of territory - often across clan borders - among a people unified by language and religion fuelled a revolt. This took the form of a religious war or Jihad by Seyyid Mohammed Abdullah Hassan in 1899. The British named the Hassan the 'Mad Mullah.'
Full British control of Somaliland was only achieved in 1920 after the defeat of Sayyid Hassan. On the 26 June 1960 the republic of Somalia became independent.