The central-west African country gained independence from France on August 17, 1960.
The earliest inhabitants of the area were Pygmy peoples but various Bantu peoples are known to have immigrated to the area beginning in the 14th century.
Portuguese traders who arrived in the 15th century named the country after the Portuguese word gabão, a coat with sleeve and hood resembling the shape of the Komo River estuary. The coast subsequently became a center of the slave trade with Dutch, English, and French traders arriving in the 16th century.
France assumed the status of protector by signing treaties with Gabonese coastal chiefs in 1839 and 1841.
In 1849, the French captured a slave ship and released the passengers at the mouth of the Komo; The slaves named their settlement Libreville, French for “free town”.
In 1910 Gabon became one of the four territories of French Equatorial Africa, a federation that survived until 1959.