Cameroons — 1948


Last week, this map, created by the Nigerian Survey Department in 1949, sparked the questions “Where is this?” and “What’s going on?” We discovered it the drawer of maps of Nigeria as we worked through to shift part of the collection.

Beginning in the early 1880’s, Germany held as a protectorate an area called Kamerun. It was larger than current Cameroon, including parts of Gabon, Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, and Nigeria.

Colonial possessions of Great Britain, France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, and Spain at the end of the 19th century. Includes inset map of Africa in 1848.

Prior to the First World War, map publishers showed "firm" boundaries between territories as well as amorphous limits of influence. Note the strong diagonal border between Niger and Kamerun in comparison to the fluid-appearing division between Niger and the French-controlled Sahara Desert to the north.

During the First World War, Kamerun was occupied by British, French, and Belgian troops. The area was divided by the League of Nations into two mandated territories, British Cameroons (Northern and Southern) and French Cameroun in 1922.

After the First World War, large areas of Africa formerly controlled by Germany were governed under League of Nations mandates. Germany has completely disappeared from the map of Africa.

Although not clearly marked, diagonal lines in eastern Nigeria show the location of the British Cameroons.

In 1946, mandated territories became United Nations Trust Territories.

This British map clearly shows the area of the Cameroons (British Trust Territory). Looking at the southern portion, the boundary between the Northern and Southern Cameroons can be seen.

Map publishers seem to have both highlighted and downplayed the British Cameroons. In this map published by the National Geographic society in July 1960, the British Cameroons are clearly separate from both Nigeria and Cameroun.

The British Cameroons are clearly shown as separate from both Nigeria and French Cameroun in this National Geographic Society map.

Yet in this map, also published in 1960, by George Cram, the British Cameroons are subsumed into Nigeria. You need to look very carefully to see the darker pink line in eastern Nigeria marking the British Cameroons boundaries.

Note the bright pink line near the Nigeria-Cameroon border demarking the boundary of British Cameroons.

In 1961, a plebiscite was held to determine whether the British Cameroons would unite with Nigeria or Cameroun; both had attained independence in 1960. Northern Cameroon (discontiguous brown, green and yellow in top map) voted to unify with Nigeria while Southern Cameroon (pink in top map) voted for Cameroon.