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Making Headway: The Introduction of Western Civilization in Colonial Northern Nigeria

Article excerpt

Making Headway: The Introduction of Western Civilization in Colonial Northern Nigeria. By Andrew E. Barnes. Rochester, N.Y.: Univ. of Rochester Press, 2009. Pp. vii, 330. $95.

This book, which is about the competing meaning of Western civilization among northern Nigeria's vast communal groupings, documents the perspectives of colonial administrators and Christian missionaries, as well as the reactions of various peoples and local rulers, especially emirs, chiefs, and Islamic clerics under British colonial rule in the first half of the twentieth century. What did it mean to "make headway" in the context of the introduction of Western civilization to colonial northern Nigeria? In an interesting presentation of the various policies, strategies, and ideologies of the bearers of Western civilization to Northern Nigeria, Barnes shows us what "making headway" meant in the local contexts. As he ably demonstrates, for the missionaries, making headway was a fight against "the sacred North run as a land apart, suspended in time and space" (p. 91). For the colonial administration, it was about how governance related to the institution and sustaining of so-called indirect rule - involving, for example, the appointment and deposition of rulers, negotiation with these rulers on how to govern and accomplish government objectives, taxation, public works, and education. This education involved (1) a leadership that followed colonial directives; (2) clerical and artisanal training; (3) reconciliation of Muslim and British values; (4) denationalization/ detribalization; (5) resistance to the harmonization of the educational systems of the southern and northern protectorates; (6) cultural transfer; (7) creating and extending northern Muslim autocratic rule over outsiders (southerners); and (8) making sure that African Christians, particularly the southerners among them, and their way of life never gained a toehold in the North. …