Reading the petitions that resident of colonial Nigeria submitted to the government during World War II, Marquette University historian, Prof. Chima J. Korieh found a unique source for African political voices as they renegotiated their status as something more than colonial subjects. What emerged was a wider social history of Nigeria during World War II. The colonial state intensified its attention to economic extraction, and many Nigerians responded positively because they believed in the British cause against Nazi Germany. But this societal contribution to the war, Nigerians then began to make broader claims for citizenship, self-determination, and independence.
Prof. Korieh’s new book extends Frederick Cooper’s portrait of decolonization as a process centered on the restructuring of labor relations in African colonial societies. He argues that the colonial intensification of extractive policies pushed Nigerian society towards a new evaluation of its own status. The post-war period brought almost immediate demands for political reform from newspapers like Nnamdi Azikiwe’s West African Pilot that had been highly support of Britain during the war.
Nigeria and World War II: Colonialism, Empire, and Global Conflict (Cambridge University Press, 2020) offers a multi-faceted portrait of a society in flux, and adds to our understanding of World War II as a global experience.
Chima J. Korieh is a professor of history and director of Africana Studies at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.