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National History of Nigeria

Little is known about Nigeria's early history. The majority of the country was sparsely populated by people with only rudimentary knowledge of cultivating domesticated food plants and herding animals.

The Nok culture (called after the town where the first archaeological discoveries were unearthed) existed on the Jos Plateau from around 800 B.C. to around A.D. 200;

the Nok people fashioned exquisite terra-cotta sculptures and presumably knew how to manufacture tin and iron. Kanem-Bornu, presumably built in the eighth century A.D. to the north of Lake Chad (outside contemporary Nigeria),

was the first significant centralised power to impact Nigeria. Kanem-Bornu extended south of Lake Chad into present-day Nigeria in the 11th century, after its monarchs had converted to Islam, and its capital was relocated there in the late 15th century.

Beginning in the 11th century, seven separate Hausa city-states in N Nigeria were established: Biram, Daura, Gobir, Kano, Katsina, Rano, and Zaria. Kano and Katsina fought with Kanem-Bornu for lucrative trans-Saharan trade, and for a period had to pay tribute to it. The Songhai Empire temporarily controlled all of Hausaland in the early 16th century.

However, in the late 16th century, Kanem-Bornu took over as the dominant force in N Nigeria, and the Hausa republics regained their independence. By the 14th century, two states in southwest Nigeria had emerged: Oyo and ,

whose monarchs traced their origins to Ife, famous for its naturalistic terra-cotta and brass art. Benin was the most powerful state in the 15th century, but it began to weaken in the 17th century, and by the 18th century, Oyo ruled Yorubaland as well as Dahomey. In the southeast, the Igbo people lived in small village groups.

Portuguese navigators were the first Europeans to explore Nigeria in the late 15th century. They quickly began to buy slaves and agricultural commodities from coastal merchants; the slaves had been captured by the middlemen further inland.

The Portuguese were followed by traders from the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands. Individuals who became affluent through the slave trade created a number of city-states among the Igbo and Ibibio, including Bonny, Owome, and Okrika.

The twentieth century

In the nineteenth century, Nigeria experienced significant internal changes. Usuman dan Fodio (1754-1817), a Fulani and devout Muslim, launched a holy war in 1804 to alter Islamic practice in the north. He quickly took the Hausa city-states, but Bornu remained independent until 1835, commanded by Muhammad al-Kanemi (also a Muslim reformer).

Muhammad Bello (d.1837), Usuman dan Fodio's son, created a state centred at in 1817, which dominated most of N Nigeria until the arrival of the British (1900-1906).

Muslim culture and trade prospered in the Fulani empire under both Usuman dan Fodio and Muhammad Bello. Muhammad al-Kanemi was replaced in Bornu by (reigned 1835-80), who saw the empire dissolve.

The slave trade was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1807, although it was continued in other countries until around 1875. Meanwhile, numerous African intermediaries began selling palm products,

which had become Nigeria's main export by the mid-century. In 1817, the Oyo Empire began a protracted series of civil wars that lasted until 1893 (when Britain interfered), by which time the empire had completely crumbled.

Britain conquered Lagos in 1861 to put an end to the slave trade there. Sir George Goldiegained control of all British corporations trading on the Niger in 1879, and he took over two French companies active there in the 1880s,

signing contracts with various African leaders. Because to Goldie's efforts, Britain was able to claim S Nigeria at the Berlin Conference (seeBerlin, Conference of) in 1884-85.

throughout the years that followed, the British cemented their dominance throughout SW Nigeria, partially through treaties (as in the Lagos hinterland) and partly through force (as in Benin in 1897). Jaja, a prominent African merchant operating in the Niger Delta who was hostile to European competition, was apprehended and deported in 1887.

Goldie's firm, given a British royal charter as the Royal Niger Company in 1886 to administer the Niger River and N Nigeria, enraged Europeans and Africans alike with its monopoly on trade on the Niger; additionally, it was not powerful enough to gain effective control over N Nigeria, which was also sought by the French.

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