From Nwana to Adichie: Britishness goes full circle in Nigerian Literature

Ugochukwu, Francoise (2011). From Nwana to Adichie: Britishness goes full circle in Nigerian Literature. In: McGlynn, C; Mycock, A. and McAuley, J.W. eds. Britishness, Identity and Citizenship: The View from Abroad. British Identities since 1707 (2). Oxford: Peter Lang, pp. 135–149.



Since the early years of British contact with Nigeria, dating back to the mid-nineteenth century, Nigerian literature has been reflecting on the changing persona of the British in the country through its frequent inclusion and handling of British characters. This chapter considers ten novels published between 1933 and 2006, to track changes in Nigerian writers’ perception of Britishness, from the prejudiced or accommodating colonial administrators and district officers of Omenuko to the city girl’s husband of People in the City, from the young female teachers of Emecheta’s school to the arrogant university professors sketched by Ike and the lonely journalist that dominates Adichie’s second novel. Focusing on the last of these novels, the study will then reveal a significant shift in the presentation of British attitudes and interests, with the central character of Richard Churchill, the young journalist from Shropshire, standing out as very different from his compatriots. He desired to see the country, and his move away from the partying Lagos to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka gradually leads to his transformation as he falls in love, learns Igbo and chooses to stay in Igboland through the war years. He ends up writing an essay to denounce the British stand on the civil war – The World Was Silent When we Died, embedded in the novel. This latest write-up, while echoing Achebe’s district officer’s monograph on The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger, stands in sharp contrast with it, as its author now takes sides with the embattled Biafrans.

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