In 1763, France had just suffered a devastating loss to the British in the Seven Years' War. In almost an instant, France's claims to West Africa shrank to the tiny island of Gorée off the coast of Senegal and a few trading posts on the mainland. This drastic reversal of fortunes forced France to reevaluate its place in the world and rethink its overall imperial objectives and colonial strategies, and in an effort to regroup, the French Empire sent a new governor, Pierre François Guillaume Poncet de la Rivière, on a mission to regain its foothold in West Africa. From this tiny island, France eventually succeeded in overturning its devastating losses and establishing itself as the dominant force in the region over the next two centuries, so deeply ingraining its influence into the core of West Africa that its imperial influence is still felt today.Despite France's future success, Poncet's tenure as governor was fraught with mismanagement and poor planning. Poncet believed he had the full backing of the Duc de Choiseul, but Poncet's excessive zeal, inability to effectively employ and listen to subordinates, and rash interactions with the British undermined the French presence in the region and ultimately led to his dismissal. Poncet's governorship sheds new light on Choiseul's goals for the Senegambia region and his underestimation of what it took to establish a strong presence.



College and Department

Humanities; French and Italian



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Senegal, Gambia, Gorée, British Empire, French Empire, Poncet de la Rivière, Duc de Choiseul, Seven Years' War, habitants, signares, Cayor, Damel, Bar, Salum, Bawol, Armeny de Paradis