Nigerian Perspectives: An Historical Anthology

Nigerian Perspectives: An Historical Anthology

Nigerian Perspectives: An Historical Anthology

Nigerian Perspectives: An Historical Anthology

Excerpt

'The soul continues to be ennobled in the study of the history of this generous age, especially when there is added to it the history of the strange and wonderful events which have occurred in this land before, and the annals of kings and learned men, and what can be pieced together of all this from the remembrance of rare happenings in these same countries. Here are things which the intellect finds pleasing, and which delight the ear in the telling.'

MUḤAMMAD BELḶO, Infaq al-maysür

This Selection of passages bearing on the history of Nigeria before 1900 is intended as an anthology rather than a sourcebook. I have tried, in deciding what to include, to take a writer's insight rather than his historical accuracy as my main criterion: to ask, in regard to each extract, how far does it succeed in illuminating some facet of the Nigerian past? However, the sheer lack of collections of documents relating to Nigerian history in any European language has certainly influenced me towards including the kind of material which I think students might look for, and feel disappointed if they do not find. If, therefore, it turns out that this anthology goes some way towards supplying students of Nigerian history with the kind of material that they can put to good use, so much the better.

One question at once arises: how much sense does it make to talk in this way about 'the Nigerian past', when the term 'Nigeria' only came into use in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and the Nigerian state, within its present boundaries, was not established until 1914? It must be admitted that the phrase is a kind of shorthand. What we are in fact concerned with is many pasts, not one--the past histories of the various peoples and civilizations which constitute modern Nigeria. But the fact that the past breaks up into many pasts is not peculiar to Nigeria. The British past dissolves into an English, Scots, and Welsh past--and, at a further remove, into a Highland and a Lowland past, a Northumbrian and an East Anglian . . .

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