The Female King of Colonial Nigeria

The Female King of Colonial Nigeria

Ahebi Ugbabe
Nwando Achebe
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/21/2011
Format: Paperback 29 b&w illus., 12 maps, 9 music exx., 5 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-22248-0
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Winner, 2012 Gita Chaudhuri Prize (The Western Association of Women Historians)Winner, 2012 Barbara "Penny" Kanner Prize (Western Association of Women Historians)Winner, 2013 Aidoo-Snyder Book Award, African Studies Association Women’s Caucus

Nwando Achebe presents the fascinating history of an Igbo woman, Ahebi Ugbabe, who became king in colonial Nigeria. Ugbabe was exiled from Igboland, became a prostitute, traveled widely, and learned to speak many languages. She became a close companion of Nigerian Igala kings and the British officers who supported her claim to the office of headman, warrant chief, and later, king. In this unique biography, Achebe traces the roots of Ugbabe's rise to fame and fortune. While providing critical perspectives on women, gender, sex and sexuality, and the colonial encounter, she also considers how it was possible for this woman to take on the office and responsibilities of a traditionally male role.

Author Bio

Nwando Achebe is Professor of History at Michigan State University. She is author of Farmers, Traders, Warriors, and Kings: Female Power and Authority in Northern Igboland, 1900–1960.


“The fascinating history of an Igbo woman who was exiled from Igboland, became a prostitute, traveled widely, learned to speak many languages, then later became king in colonial Nigeria.”

“An unusual biography and a compelling tale about the life of an extraordinary woman.”
 — Stephan F. Miescher, University of California, Santa Barbara

“This important, but neglected, story of Nigeria’s only female warrant chief is thoroughly grounded in local meanings and local categories, yet speaks to some of the most important concerns in comparative women’s history: from slavery and freedom, to sexuality, power, and spirituality.”
 — Jean Allman, Washington University of St. Louis

“An important contribution to the study of modern African history. It will be of special interest to scholars of African history, women's studies, and comparative politics.”
 — Anene Ejikeme, Trinity University

“The Female King of Colonial Nigeria makes a solid contribution to the literature on women’s (auto) biography and the cogent treatments of gender, and sexualities. The book will benefit scholars, students, and those interested in issues of women and gender. ”
 — African Studies Quarterly

“[A] fascinating exploration of the fluidity of gender and the nature of political authority. And it’s a remarkable reconstruction not only of colonial rule at the local level, but also of pre-colonial life and post-colonial memory. I highly recommend.6/29/12”
 — New Books in Gender

“Achebe presents a compelling history that embodies yet transcends the local. This thorough and detailed biography will be of great use to specialists in Igbo history and to scholars of women's and gender history more broadly. ”
 — American Historical Review

“The Female King is a thoughtful, well-written, and amply documented work that should have great influence on those who write about the Igbo, about African women, and about African history. ”
 — Women's Review of Books

“The Female King of Colonial Nigeria will be a valuable read for a variety of audiences. Whether one is interested in colonial history, gender history, family history, or women’s history, there is much to be found in this biography to enrich and complicate one’s understandings.”
 — Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History

“The Female King of Colonial Nigeria is a rich and significant book that illuminates history, culture, politics, and gender constructions in Igbo land. The book is lucidly written, provides good examples of field methods, and will enrich scholars and students of a wide range of disciplines from history to anthropology and gender studies. ”
 — Intl. Journal of African Historical Studies

“The Female King of Colonial Nigera . . . is one of the most compellingly argued, rigorously researched scholarly writings in the fields of history and women studies in colonial Igbo society, Nigeria and Africa. ”
 — Leeds African Studies Bulletin

“[This is] the story of a woman, Ahebi Ugbabe, who rose from the status of a local girl and commercial sex worker to that of a village headman, a warrant chief and a king....[This book]... salvage[s] the history of a woman who became the only warrant chief in colonial Nigeria...distinguishes between Western concepts of gender and sexuality, and the indigenous meanings of these concepts in an African setting.... [A] well-written, amply researched, and efficiently documented [book]. It is a major contribution to African history and the practice of oral history.March 2013”
 — Reviews in History

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Table of Contents

Ekene / Acknowledgments

Nkwado / The Preparation: All Trees Grow in the Forest, but the Ora Singled Itself Out
Nkowa / The Introduction: Unspoken, Blame the Mouth; Unheard, Blame the Ear
1. Oge Nwatakili: The Time of Childhood, ca. 1880<N>1895
2. Mgbakpu Ahebi: Exile in Igalaland, ca. 1895<N>1916
3. Performing Masculinities: Homecoming--and She Becomes a Man, ca. 1916<N>1948
4. Inside King Ahebi's Palace, ca. 1916<N>1948
5. Mastering Masculinities: Ekpe Ahebi Masquerade--the Final Insult, ca. 1931<N>1948
Mmechi / The Conclusion: Ahebi Today--the Works That We Do Are the Things by Which We Are Remembered

Appendix: Select Criminal and Civil Cases in Nsukka Division, 1921<N>1935
Glossary of Enugu-Ezike Chronological Terms
Glossary of Igbo, Igala, and Akpoto Words

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