What factors have shaped Nigeria’s complex history, and what will be the country’s path forward?
First edition. June 2017.

Nigeria: History, Identity, and Change invites students to explore the history of Africa’s most populous country and the largest Black country in the world. While Nigeria’s importance as a global actor is clear, many people know very little about the country and the diverse people who live there. In this unit, students read about the country’s history, from the precolonial era to the present, and are exposed to numerous themes and concepts, such as colonialism, nationalism and national identity, independence, military dictatorships, activism, democracy, and many others. Nigeria: History, Identity, and Change helps students understand the complexities of Nigeria’s history and think critically about its present and future.


Part I of the reading explores the development of precolonial Nigerian societies, their interactions with each other, and how they responded to European exploration as well as the transatlantic slave trade. In Part II, students read about the complexities of the colonial era in Nigeria, how certain Nigerians experienced—and therefore responded to—colonialism differently, and Nigerian fights for independence. Part III includes information on the era of military dictatorship in Nigeria, the growing importance of oil in the economy, and the ways that different groups in Nigeria challenged the dictatorship and called for democracy. Finally, in Part IV, students trace Nigeria’s history from its transition to democracy up until the present. This section of the reading focuses on current events and issues as well as questions about Nigeria’s future.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


The Geography of Nigeria

Students familiarize themselves with Nigeria and its neighbors, significant cities, and landmarks on a map. They then work together to explore images of Nigeria and identify issues and themes for inquiry.

Artifacts as Primary Sources

Students examine artifacts from precolonial Nigeria to explore the differences between various societies and to consider how historians can use artifacts to learn more about history.

The Women's War: Feminist Resistance

Students analyze primary source documents representing a variety of perspectives to better understand the Women's War and discuss the process of crafting historical narratives.

The Choices Role Play

Students work cooperatively using primary sources to present three options Nigerians debated in late 1966 and early 1967 about the future of democracy in their country.

Cultural Responses to Dictatorship

To understand social and political factors that contributed to resistance to military dictatorships, students analyze artistic and cultural sources, including poetry, excerpts from novels and memoirs, song lyrics, and political cartoons.

Media Coverage: The Niger Delta Conflict

Students interpret data about the media coverage of the conflict in the Niger Delta and draw conclusions about the implications of the media coverage of this conflict.

Assessment Using Documents

Students analyze primary and secondary sources in order to answer questions about the Nigerian Civil War and historical debates about characterizing the war as a genocide.

Nigerian Historical Fiction

Drawing from examples of Nigeria's rich literary tradition, students analyze excerpts of works of historical fiction, present dramatic readings to the class, and discuss using fiction as a source for historical learning.


Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Bourne, Richard. Nigeria: A New History of a Turbulent Century. London: Zed Books, 2015.

Falola, Toyin, and Matthew M. Heaton. A History of Nigeria. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Falola, Toyin, and Ogechukwu Ezekwem. Writing the Nigeria-Biafra War. Rochester, NY: Boydell and Brewer, Inc., 2016.

Korieh, Chima J. The Nigeria-Biafra War: Genocide and the Politics of Memory. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2012.

Mack, Beverly B., and Jean Boyd. One Woman’s Jihad: Nana Asma’u, Scholar and Scribe. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2009.

Nugent, Paul. Africa Since Independence. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Oriji, John Nwachimereze. Political Organization in Nigeria Since the Late Stone Age: A History of the Igbo People. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Smith, Daniel Jordan. A Culture of Corruption: Everyday Deception and Popular Discontent in Nigeria. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Uthman, Ibrahim Olatunde. Feminist Insiders-Outsiders: Muslim Women in Nigeria and the Contemporary Feminist Movement. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2009.

A digital collection of resources from various African countries and societies written in their original language.
An instagram account that features images of life in Borno with a focus on the everyday. Also on Facebook and Twitter.
A series of profiles on the role of religion in various countries, including Nigeria.
A digitized historical map of Ile-Ife overlaid onto a current satellite image of the area that shows the locations of important people, places, and events.
A free, online comic about a young Nigerian woman’s experience being trafficked.
A database and other resources with information about the transatlantic slave trade.
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