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Precolonial History of Nigeria

Between the 11th century and European colonial conquest in the late 19th century, the area in and around Nigeria was home to a number of sophisticated and influential societies. Among the most important were the northeastern kingdom of Borno, the Hausa city-state/kingdoms of Katsina, Kano, Zaria, and Gobir in northern-central Nigeria, the Yoruba city-states/kingdoms of Ife, Oyo, and Ijebu in southwestern Nigeria, the southern kingdom of Benin, and the Igbo communities of eastern Nigeria. Extensive trading networks developed among these societies and northwards across the Sahara.

During the 19th century, the abolition of the slave trade cleared the way for expansion of trade in agricultural produce from Africa to Europe, particularly palm oil from the West African coastal areas. The coastal enclave of Lagos became a British colony in 1861, a center for expansion of British trade, missions, and political influence. Late 19th century and early 20th century Lagos was also a center for educated West African elites who were to play prominent roles in the development of Pan-Africanism as well as Nigerian nationalism. By the end of the 19th century, Britain began an aggressive military expansion in the region. A protectorate was declared over northern Nigeria in 1900. Despite the loss of sovereignty, the strong political and cultural traditions of these societies initially enabled many to accommodate nominal British rule with little change in their way of life.







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