In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Guinea

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Primary Sources
  • Letters and Narrative Accounts
  • Geography
  • Society and Culture
  • Ethnic Groups
  • Women and Gender
  • Economy
  • Language
  • Music and Performance

African Studies Guinea
Mohamed Saliou Camara
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 November 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 November 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0135


The land, societies, and cultures that constitute the present-day Republic of Guinea played an important part in the rich past of West Africa, including the founding of centralized states such as the Mali Empire (13th–15th century CE). Subsequent episodes of that history saw the place of Guinea become increasingly worthy of scholarly attention, including the introduction and expansion of Islam; varied interactions with European explorers and traders; the transatlantic slave trade (15th–19th century); the creation of Manden and Fulani Muslim states; and the European colonial conquest, partition, and occupation of the region (19th and 20th centuries). However, researchers became more interested in Guinea as a distinctive entity in the last years of French colonialism. Having been the only French colony to decisively reject General de Gaulle’s constitutional proposal for a Franco-African Community in 1958, the country attracted further attention as it gained independence and espoused a political and economic path combining Afro-Marxism, Pan-Africanism, and Islamic nationalism. The downfall of the Sékou Touré regime, which had led the anticolonial movement and ruled the country until 1984, opened an era of economic liberalization to which some political pluralism was added in the early 1990s. The available scholarship essentially reflects that itinerary and, explicably, has been largely dominated by publications in the French language. Each of the works listed in this article is a valuable source of pertinent information and analysis in at least one major field of research. Many of them are readily available in various academic libraries around the world; some are available in both print and electronic versions. Although researchers may find Sékou Touré’s extensive political writings useful in terms of understanding Guinea’s evolution in the context of Cold War politics, in the interest of balance and diversity, only a few of those writings are included in the present article.

General Overviews

The available general overview works on Guinea range from 18th-century traveler’s accounts to more in-depth narratives by European explorers and to more recent publications by noted researchers in various fields of scholarship. These have the merit of providing a broad view of present-day Guinea in the context of the gradual transformation of West Africa due to the complex interplay of dynamic forces, both endogenous and exogenous. Devey 1997 offers an overview of Guinea in terms of its land and people, cultural diversity, economic potentials, historical past, and political development from the time of medieval kingdoms to the late 20th century. Renaudeau 1978 contains visual representations of key aspects of Guinea’s economy, culture, and society during the first decades of independence. Suret-Canale 1970 presents a detailed narrative of Guinea’s landscape, ethnic makeup, administrative organization, and system of economic planning as of the late 1960s. Smith 1967 gives a mixture of traveler’s accounts and ethnological descriptions of Guinea’s geographical landscape and the customs and traditions of its people.

  • Devey, Muriel. La Guinée. Paris: Karthala, 1997.

    The book provides a comprehensive overview of the natural environment, historical transformation, and political evolution of Guinea from the age of West African kingdoms (c. 10th century) to the late 20th century. It highlights paramount events through which historical transformation may be best understood within the wider West African context.

  • Renaudeau, Michel. The Republic of Guinea. Paris: Éditions Delroisse, 1978.

    An illustrated overview of Guinea’s landscape, social and cultural makeup, economic resources, and political leadership, the book showcases what the Guinean government believed to be the country’s most valuable assets and most determinant potential contribution to world civilization.

  • Smith, William. New Voyage to Guinea. Psychology Press, 1967.

    A detailed traveler account first published in 1744, the book describes the land, peoples, and customs of coastal Guinea in the context of the wider coastal West Africa. It essentially describes the natural environment and the customs of the people, including the soil, education, manual arts, agriculture, trade, employments, languages, ranks of distinction, habitations, diversions, and marriage traditions.

  • Suret-Canale, Jean. La République de Guinée. Paris: Éditions Sociales, 1970.

    The outcome of a long fieldwork, this book gives an insightful study of Guinea’s physical, economic, and sociocultural geography. It presents the contrast between the country’s abundant natural resources (agricultural and mineral) and rich human capital on the one hand, and its lack of economic development on the other.

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