Until 1973, Banjul was known as Bathurst. It is the capital of Tha Gambia, on St. Mary's Island, near the mouth of the Gambia River. It is the country's largest city. It was founded in 1816, when the British Colonial Office ordered Capt. Alexander Grant to establish a military post on the river to suppress the slave trade and to serve as a trade outlet for merchants ejected from Senegal, which had been restored to France. Grant chose Banjul Island (ceded by the chief of Kombo) as the site, which he renamed St. Mary's. He named the new settlement for Henry Bathurst, 3rd Earl Bathurst, then colonial secretary. It became the capital of the British colony and protectorate of Gambia and after 1947 was governed by a town council. With The Gambia's independence in 1965, the town was granted city status and became the national capital. The name was changed to Banjul in 1973.
Banjul is The Gambia's commercial and transportation centre. It has several peanut (groundnut) decorticating plants and oil mills; peanuts, peanut oil and meal, and palm kernels are exported. Tourism is of increasing importance, alleviating some of the urban unemployment problem and encouraging handicraft (wood carvings, filigree jewelry, hand-dyed cloth) industries. Banjul is connected with the interior and Senegal via a 3-mi (5-km) ferry northward across the Gambia River (to Barra) and by the Banjul-Serekunda Highway. A regular steamer service operates to Basse Santa Su, 242 mi upstream. The Gambia's international airport is at Yundum, 18 miles (30 km) southwest.
The nation's educational centre, Banjul has the Gambia High School (1958), two Roman Catholic secondary schools, a Muslim high school, a vocational school, and a public library. Associated with the city's Royal Victoria Hospital (1957) are the Gambia School of Nursing (1964), a mental hospital, a tuberculosis sanatorium, and a home for the infirm.
Almost half of the city's population is Wolof, but the Aku (descendants of freed slaves), Malinke (Mandingo, Mandinka), Mauritanian, and Lebanese communities are significant minorities. Banjul has a mosque and Anglican, Catholic, and Methodist churches. Pop. (1983 prelim.) 44,500.
Brikama is the administrative headquarters of the Western division of The Gambia, on the road from Banjul (formerly Bathurst) to Mansa Konko. An agricultural trade centre (peanuts [groundnuts] and palm oil and kernels) among the Muslim Malinke (Mandingo) and Dyola (Diola or Jola) peoples, it is also the focus for the nation's incipient forest industry (teak and gmelina). There is an ice-making plant and an agricultural college. Pop. (1973) 9,483.
Formerly known as MacCarthy Island until 1995, the island Janjanbureh in The Gambia River was originally called Lemain Island. It is 176 miles (283 km) upstream from Banjul, central Gambia. It was ceded in 1823 to Captain Alexander Grant of the African Corps, who was acting for the British crown. Designated as a site for freed slaves, the island was renamed for Sir Charles MacCarthy, British colonial governor (1814-24). In the 1830s peanut (groundnut) cultivation was introduced by the Wesleyan Mission at the port town of Georgetown (q.v.) on the island. The island is 6 miles (10 km) long and 1.5 miles (2.5 km) wide and is chiefly inhabited by Malinke (Mandingo) people. Pop. (latest census) 2,510.
The city of Janjanbureh, formerly known as Georgetown until 1995, is a major port city on Janjanbureh Island in the Gambia River, central Gambia. It was founded in 1823 by Captain Alexander Grant as a settlement for freed slaves. Georgetown's Wesleyan Mission (1823) introduced the peanut (groundnut), a crop still exported downstream on the Gambia River. Georgetown is now a collecting centre for swamp rice and peanuts grown by the local Muslim Malinke (Mandingo), Fulani (Fula), and Wolof peoples. Pop. (1983 prelim.) 3,001.