A New History of a Turbulent Century

Richard Bourne


An essential insight into the shaping of the 'African giant'.

‘If you want to understand Nigeria’s history in one succinct go, this is a very good choice.’
Noo Saro-Wiwa

Known as the African Giant, Nigeria's story is complex and often contradictory. How, despite the ravages of colonialism, civil war, ongoing economic disappointment and most recently the Boko Haram insurgency, has the country managed to stay together for a hundred years? Why, despite an abundance of oil, mineral and agricultural wealth, have so many of its people remained in poverty?

These are the key questions explored by Richard Bourne in this remarkable and wide-ranging account of Nigeria's history, from its creation in 1914 to the historic 2015 elections and beyond.

Featuring a wealth of original research and interviews, this is an essential insight into the shaping of a country where, despite the seemingly dashed optimism that was raised at independence, there still remains hope 'the Nigeria project' may still succeed.

Author Bio

Richard Bourne is senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, and a trustee of the Ramphal Institute, London. He is the author of Catastrophe: What Went Wrong in Zimbabwe? (Zed, 2011) and Lula of Brazil (Zed, 2008).

Table of Contents

  • Part I: 1914–39: Invention of a Country
    • 1. A Merger Makes a Large Possession for Britain
    • 2. First World War: Nigeria on the Front Line
    • 3. Lugard Struggles with Opponents
    • 4. Between the Wars: Nigeria is Not a Single State
    • 5. Between the Wars: The Economy in a World Depression
    • 6. Between the Wars: A New Assertive Nationalism
  • Part II: 1939–64: Rocky Road to Freedom
    • 7. Another World War and Strategic Importance
    • 8. Political Change and Divisive Regionalism
    • 9. Regional Governments and the Coming of Independence
    • 10. The Joy of Independence
    • 11. Overture to Disaster
  • Part III: 1964–89: The Shadow of the Generals
    • 12. Military Coups, Biafra and Civil War
    • 13. Reconstruction, Another Coup and the Craving for Democracy
    • 14. A Second Republic, Its Short, Inglorious Life and its Overthrow
    • 15. Buhari, IBB and a New Military Era
  • Section IV: 1989–2014: A Decade of Pain, then Disappointment in Democracy
    • 16. The Annulment of an Election Puts Nigeria on Edge
    • 17. The Disastrous Abacha Years
    • 18. Democracy, and the Return of Obasanjo
    • 19. Yar'Adua, Jonathan and Threats in the Delta and the Northeast
  • Section V: Reflections


‘Fills a gap for a one-stop history of the first century ... Bourne relates a century’s worth of politics at a brisk clip.’
Financial Times

‘If you want to understand Nigeria’s history in one succinct go, this is a very good choice.’
Noo Saro-Wiwa

‘An insightful account of great interest to scholars.'
The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs

‘The book currently stands as the most extensive documentation on Nigeria.’
African Studies Quarterly

'[A]n excellent introduction to Africa’s most populous country.'
Foreign Affairs

'[A]n excellent overview of the main political events of Nigeria’s first hundred years.'
Africa at LSE

‘Writing about the diversity and complexity of governance in Nigeria poses a challenge even to established historians. Richard Bourne has in this book tackled the challenge with detailed research and admirable perspicacity. Recommended reading for all those interested in Nigerian history.’
Emeka Anyaoku, former Commonwealth Secretary-General

‘Well researched and full of the anecdotes that turn a great history into an enjoyable one, Bourne's book is a necessary addition to the growing canon of comprehensive histories of Nigeria.’
Chibundu Onuzo, Guardian columnist and author of The Spider King's Daughter

‘This book is a major achievement and I defy anyone who reads it not to learn from it and gain greater understanding of the nature and development of a major African nation.’
Lalage Bown, professor emeritus, Glasgow University

‘Richard Bourne's meticulously researched book is a major addition to Nigerian history.’
Guy Arnold, author of Africa: A Modern History

‘This is a charming read that will educate the general reader, while allowing specialists additional insights to build upon. It deserves an audience far beyond the confines of Nigerian studies.'
Toyin Falola, African Studies Association and the University of Texas at Austin

‘With his characteristic candour, pithiness and immaculate judgement, Bourne gives us a Nigerian history that reveals not only its full complexity but its huge range of dynamism, resilience and hope for the future. This is a very fine book.’
Stephen Chan, SOAS, University of London

‘Richard Bourne's brilliant new book is an admirable, fair-minded account of a complex story, embellished with excellent portraits of its extended cast.’
Richard Gott, author of Britain's Empire


Publication Date: 15 October 2015
344 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781780329062
Hardback: 9781780329079
eBook ePub: 9781780329093
eBook PDF: 9781780329086
eBook Kindle: 9781780329109

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