Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

A tropical country on the Atlantic coast of West Africa, flanked by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire.


The climate is hot and very wet. Rainforest and swamp cover the coastal plain, which is traversed by several rivers flowing down from savannah‐covered uplands.


There are links with Guinea and Sierra Leone through the Mano River Union. Iron ore is Liberia's chief export. Rubber, diamonds, timber, and coffee are the other main exports. Bauxite and manganese are mined. Cassava, rice, and sugar cane are important crops. Industry is limited to food‐processing. Shipping registration fees contribute substantial revenues; ships are registered in Liberia because of its low taxation and lenient inspection policies. Monrovia is a free port. The civil war and low world commodity prices have produced a devastating economic collapse since 1990.


Liberia is the oldest independent republic in Africa (1847). It owes its origin to the philanthropic American Colonization Society. US negotiations with local rulers for a settlement for the repatriation of freed slaves began in 1816. The first settlements were made in 1822, and the name Liberia was adopted in 1824. Independence was proclaimed by Joseph Jenkins Roberts, first President, in 1847. The real beginning of prosperity was in the 1920s, when the Firestone Rubber Company provided a permanent and stable market for rubber. W. V. S. Tubman was President from 1944 until his death in 1971. With a decline in world rubber prices, the economy suffered in the 1970s and a bloody revolution in 1980 brought in the People's Redemption Council, a military government, under Master‐Sergeant Samuel Doe. The latter was named President and Commander‐in‐Chief, and his ten‐year autocratic rule was one of deep corruption, ending in 1990 with civil war. Two rebel groups, one led by Charles Taylor and a second by Prince Yormie Johnson, assailed the capital Monrovia, and some 150,000 refugees fled the country. A peacekeeping force from ECOWAS intervened, Doe was murdered, and a ceasefire arranged in 1990. Fighting between rival factions continued, while ECOWAS negotiators tried to restore peace. A peace agreement made in 1991 was not upheld, but in 1993 a further agreement was signed, which included provisions for the implementation of multiparty democracy. A transitional legislature was set up in 1994 but the peace process remained fragile and violence continued. A further peace accord was formulated in 1995. Factional fighting broke out again in April 1996, but a ceasefire was agreed in July 1996. Charles Taylor was elected President in 1997. Rebels forced him into exile in 2003, after which a multinational peacekeeping force was deployed and a transitional government established. Ellen Johnson‐Sirleaf was elected President in 2005, becoming Africa's first woman leader.




111,400 sq km (43,000 sq miles)


2,900,000 (2005)


1 Liberian dollar = 100 cents


Christian 67.7%; Muslim 13.8%; traditional beliefs and other 18.5%

Ethnic Groups:

Kpelle 19.4%; Bassa 13.8%; Grebo 9.0%; Gio 7.8%; Kru 7.3%; Mano 7.1%


English (official); Mande; Kru‐Bassa

International Organizations:

UN; AU; ECOWAS; Non‐Aligned Movement


Subjects: History.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.