The British Empire Library

The Administration of Nigeria, 1900-1960: Men, Methods and Myths

by I.F. Nicolson

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by J.W.R.
Nr. Nicholson's "The Administration of Nigeria 1900-1960. Men, Methods and Myths'', published by the Oxford University Press surveys the creation and development of the administrative service of the Colonial Government in Nigeria from 1900, when Nigeria emerged as a recognisable country until its independence in 1960. Looking back at the early years Mr. Nicholson describes how the policies followed then were in his opinion the direct cause of the difficulties which Nigeria has recently been facing, and in his assessment of this period he iconoclastically challenges the portrait of Lord Lugard, which has been so long accepted. The hero is cast from his pedestal and his own and Lady Lugard's accounts of his conquest and his subsequent administration of Northern Nigeria are relegated to the realms of fancy.

This book, therefore, whether the author's view of Lord Lugard's work is fully accepted or not, should be of the greatest value to all those who served in Nigeria or are interested in the present crisis there.

The author's concentration on demolishing the Lugard legend dominates the book, and allows him little room for a description of the actual work of the administrative staff. Although Mr. Nicholson emphasises the essential difference of administrative methods in the North and in the South, one finds no detailed analysis of the ways in which the day-to-day work of the Northern administrative officer differed from that of his counterpart in the South. Nor does it appear that there was any essential difference in the aims of the officers in North and South; to do justice, keep the peace, and encourage their peoples to develop and progress towards a better and more civilised way of living.

Mr. Nicholson, while recognising the difficulties faced by Lord Lugard in administering a vast territory with an exiguous staff and inadequate financial resources, criticises him for accepting the administrative system which he found in existence in the Emirates and for building upon its foundations; but does not suggest what other course was open to him.

But this is certainly a thought provoking book, which is well worth reading. It is well written, contains a mass of information especially about the early days of British rule in Nigeria, and helps to give the reader a good idea of the background to the present situation in Nigeria, although all the author's views cannot be accepted.

British Empire Book
I.F. Nicolson
Clarendon Press


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