Equatorial Guinea consists of the island of Bioko, for centuries called Fernando Pó; other smaller islands and the mainland territory of Rio Muni. Fernando Pó was named after the Portuguese navigator Fernão do Pó. The island was then ruled for three centuries by Portugal until 1778 when it was ceded to Spain. For some decades after taking possession of Fernando Pó, Spain did not have a strong presence. Britain was permitted to establish a naval base at Clarence (later Santa Isabel), which was central to the suppression of slave trading over a wide area. Spain asserted its rule from the 1840s. On Fernando Pó the Spanish grew cocoa on European-owned plantations using imported African labour. This traffic led to an international scandal in 1930 when Liberians were found to be held in virtual slavery. Later many Nigerians were employed, often in poor conditions.
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