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Reviewed by:
  • A History of Nigeria
  • E. Ike Udogu
Falola, Toyin, and Matthew M. Heaton . 2008. A History of Nigeria. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 329 pp. Paper. $20.48

The history of Nigeria has been told and retold 1 for the purpose of enlightening the current and future generations of scholars of the area's developments from antiquity to the present. The hope is that the provision of rich information can help academics construct models and theories likely to advance the good-governance project that is critical for promoting the "good political life" for everyone in the polity.

It is against the backdrop of the foregoing suppositions that this book may be visualized and its contents understood. Written by Toyin Falola, a proficient African and Nigerian historian, and Matthew M. Heaton, a student of African history, this book offers a rich chronology of events that shaped the area's socioeconomic and politico-cultural character from 9000 bce to 2007, a list of famous and not-so-famous actors in Nigerian history, and an impressive glossary (pp. xiii–xxxix). The book is laced with photos of social and economic activities, the importance of which could be discerned fifty to a hundred years from now, as to how the society has progressed or regressed.

This book is in effect the second edition of Falola's impressive work, The History of Nigeria (1999). As is the wont, the second edition generally augments the first by deepening the argumentation and analysis, thus enhancing the first with new and significant materials. Nevertheless, the authors contend in the introduction that the book "aims to bring a greater chronological and thematic balance to the narrative of Nigerian history…. [It] makes a special effort to illustrate social and cultural themes in Nigeria's history, such as the roles played by ethnicity, religion, education, urbanization, and globalization in the lives of Nigerian peoples and state over the centuries" (p. 1).

Thematically, chapters 1 to 3 discuss the historical, anthropological, and cultural character of the region that was later to be labeled Nigeria; chapters 4 to 6 examine the period during which a colonial power—Britain— administered the area; chapters 7 to 9 address the political and historical metamorphoses of post-independence Nigeria, from the exuberance of emancipation in 1960 to the politically topsy-turvy epoch of the next forty years or so; chapter 10 looks at the impact of Nigeria and Nigerians on world history; and the conclusion offers an overview of the 2007 elections (pp. 12–15). 2

Chapter 1, "Early States and Societies, 9000 bce—1500 ce," reminds the reader that the area that is modern day Nigeria was inhabited by different groups, which long interacted with each other commercially, some of them functioning like ancient Greek city-states. Thus, argue the authors, it might be a misnomer to refer to the area as precolonial Nigeria. The only boundary [End Page 122] that existed was the Atlantic Ocean and perhaps mountains and artificial borders created by intergroup wars (p. 17). So, comparatively, whereas the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 resulted in the creation of the modern state system in Europe, colonialists invented the state-system in Africa and fortified their claims in 1884–1885 at the Berlin conference, as a consequence of which modern Nigeria fell into the hands of Britain. Central to the importance of this chapter is the extent to which different ethnic groups moved in and out of the area. East Africans moved in just as groups inhabiting the West African region moved to central, eastern, northern, and southern regions (as Henry Gates' DNA findings of African Americans appear to confirm). In short, there were no consolidated land boundaries between groups. The people were "Africans" of different ethnic hues, who not only clashed in wars, but also cooperated and traded with each other. These ancient relationships among "Africans" in the continent have in part informed contemporary discourse among pan-Africanists and others who argue for the creation of the United States of Africa or the Union of African States. 3

Chapter 2, "Slavery, State, and Society, c. 1500–c. 1800," brings to the fore the history of a period that many Africans would as...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1978
Print ISSN
0001-9887
Pages
pp. 122-128
Launched on MUSE
2009-07-18
Open Access
No
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