The Metis of Senegal

The Métis of Senegal

Urban Life and Politics in French West Africa
Hilary Jones
Distribution: World
Publication date: 2/25/2013
ISBN: 978-0-253-00705-6
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The Métis of Senegal is a history of politics and society among an influential group of mixed-race people who settled in coastal Africa under French colonialism. Hilary Jones describes how the métis carved out a niche as middleman traders for European merchants. As the colonial presence spread, the métis entered into politics and began to assert their position as local elites and power brokers against French rule. Many of the descendants of these traders continue to wield influence in contemporary Senegal. Jones’s nuanced portrait of métis ascendency examines the influence of family connections, marriage negotiations, and inheritance laws from both male and female perspectives.

Author Bio

Hilary Jones is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park.


"An important contribution to African history that traces the rise and decline of the métis community of St. Louis-du-Sénégal, one of the mixed race communities that sprouted in the various corners of the European empire." —Martin Klein, University of Toronto

"[T]his is an immensely successful first book, and we can only hope that Jones will delve deeper into some of these topics in her future work." —
American Historical Review

"Overall, Jones’s book represents an important contribution to studies of the French colonial presence in Africa, exploring that presence through a new and productive perspective that offers nuanced and often surprising insights." —Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies

"The métis (mixed-ancestry community of Saint-Louis has played an important role in Senegal's history. The most prominent descended from signares, successful female entrepreneurs and high-status 'companions' of European men. Historian Jones . . . rescues the métis from lingering voluptuary associations, exploring their 18th-century origins and how they created a distinct communty identity. . . . Recommended." —Choice

"[T]his well-documented and well-written book represents a compelling case study for understanding the nature of the colonial encounter between Africans and Europeans in French West Africa." —International Journal of African Historical Studies

"Jones's book is the result of extensive research in state, parish, and private archives and newspapers in Dakar and St Louis, Bordeaux, and Paris. . . The book expands the recent historiography on the meanings of the term ‘métis’ beyond the perspectives of French colonial society. Furthermore, Jones makes the important contribution of arguing for the ways in which women and household politics continued to influence the public sphere even as the French bolstered African men and state institutions as the locus of political power and wealth." —Journal of African History

"[This] book brings welcome new emphasis to family and gender dynamics, as viewed, for example, through the material life of métis households. [The author's] use of marriage contracts and genealogies, as well as documents she located in Bordeaux, has helped her to advance existing scholarship." —Africa

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Urban Life, Politics, and French Colonialism
1. Signares, Habitants, and Grumets in the Making of Saint Louis
2. Métis Society and Transformations in the Colonial Economy (1820-1870)
3. Religion, Marriage, and Material Culture
4. Education, Association, and an Independent Press
5. From Outpost to Empire
6. Electoral Politics and the Métis (1870-1890)
7. Urban Politics and the Limits of Republicanism (1890-1920)
Appendix: Family Histories