Nigeria, Nationalism, and Writing History

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Nigeria, Nationalism, and Writing History. By Toy in Falo la and Saheed Aderinto. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2010. Pp. xvi, 333; selected bibliography, index. $75.00.

Ah, Nigeria. Some love it. Some hate it. Most who know it do both. From frequent characterization as the "Superpower of Africa" to Soyinka's famous description of the country as the "Open Sore of a Continent" there is no shortage of opposing perspectives on this enigmatic African state. In this beautifully crafted new volume Falola and Aderinto bring a new and welcome perspective to the table. In Nigeria, Nationalism, and Writing History they explore the depth and diversity of Nigeria's national historiography and what this body of scholarship means for Nigeria's developing self-identity and for the development of African history itself. While highlighting the many contributions of Nigerian historians, the book is not overly celebratory or hagiographie. Indeed, a key theme of this text is that from a peak of creativity and influence in the 1960s and 1970s, the production of historical knowledge in Nigeria fell into a period of decline in the latter twentieth and early twenty -first centuries.

To this end, Falola and Aderinto examine Nigeria's national historiography from a number of angles. In Part One, "The Foundation of Knowledge," they provide a brief introduction to the "pre-academic" historiography of Nigeria, looking at the work of writers such as Muhammad Bello, Moses Lijadu, and Akiga Sai. A critical yet balanced eye is also turned to the work of western missionaries and colonial administrators in shaping the development of Nigerian perspectives on history and identity. A discussion of the development of post-war and independence era scholarship, including the influence of the "Ibadan School" of African history, rounds out this brief introduction. Chapter 2 of this section examines the critical contribution of K.O. Dike in the foundation of Nigeria's system of National Archives.

In Part Two, "Varieties of History," the authors provide a thematic overview of the topic from political, economic, social, and women's and gender history perspectives. This section of the book both extends the chronological narrative of the introductory chapter, and also helps place Nigerian historiography in the broader context of African history. There are also occasional glimpses into connections to broader historiographical trends as well, such as the contributions of Nigerian scholars to the debates between the modernization and dependency camps of economic history. …