Country on the Atlantic coast of western equatorial Africa, bordered by Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon to the north and by the Republic of Congo to the east and south. Gabon became independent in 1960. Its capital is Libreville and French is the national language.
Gabon’s heavy rainfall and warm temperatures mean that much of the country’s total area of c. 267,667 sq. km is covered by tropical rainforest. Its population (c. 1,113,000; UN estimate, 1989) is increasingly concentrated in urban areas, leaving the interior plateau sparsely inhabited. Pygmies occupied the dense Gabonese rainforest from c. 5000 bc, followed by migrating Bantu-speaking peoples from c.ad 1000. The first European contact was made in the 1470s by Portuguese maritime explorers, and slaves and ivory were major exports until the mid-19th century. European merchants, missionaries and officials established permanent settlements, and the Fang peoples began a migration from their homeland near Cameroon to these commercial centres. By the 1880s the country was one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, becoming the French Congo in ...