Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria

Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria

Firearms, Culture, and Public Order
Saheed Aderinto
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/23/2018
Format: Hardback 12 b&w illus., 4 tables
ISBN: 978-0-253-03160-0
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Guns are an enduring symbol of imperialism, whether they are used to impose social order, create ceremonial spectacle, incite panic, or to inspire confidence. In Guns and Society, Saheed Aderinto considers the social, political, and economic history of these weapons in colonial Nigeria. As he transcends traditional notions of warfare and militarization, Aderinto reveals surprising insights into how colonialism changed access to firearms after the 19th century. In doing so, he explores the unusual ways in which guns were used in response to changes in the Nigerian cultural landscape. More Nigerians used firearms for pastime and professional hunting in the colonial period than at any other time. The boom and smoke of gunfire even became necessary elements in ceremonies and political events. Aderinto argues that firearms in the Nigerian context are not simply commodities but are also objects of material culture. Considering guns in this larger context provides a clearer understanding of the ways in which they transformed a colonized society.

Author Bio

Saheed Aderinto is Associate Professor of History at Western Carolina University and the author of When Sex Threatened the State: Illicit Sexuality, Nationalism, and Politics in Colonial Nigeria, 1900-1958.


“Aderinto has written a solid history. . . . the book is clearly written and contextualized while addressing sophisticated ideas and an array of specific examples.”
 — African Studies Quarterly

“Aderinto has written a very persuasive book: not only did the omnipresence of weapons influence Nigerian colonial culture but it also created a gun society. This convincing argument reminds us that American political debates on firearm regulation and policing deserve to be historicized.”
 — Social History

“Aderinto’s book makes an important contribution to the history of firearms in the twentieth century. . . . the meticulous study of the way in which guns gradually permeated everyday life is exemplary, pointing far beyond the Nigerian case.”
 — H-Soz-Kult

Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria remains an important book and a welcome addition to the scholarship on firearms in Africa. Engagingly written and underpinned by meticulous research, it serves as a well-documented demonstration of the benefits that accrue from studying processes of technology transfer from a socio-cultural perspective and of the inventiveness with which, throughout their history, Africans have appropriated externally-introduced commodities for their own purposes.”
 — Journal of African History

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
Introduction: Firearms in Twentieth-Century Colonial Africa
1. "This Destructive Implement of European Ingenuity": Firearms, the Atlantic World, and Technology Transfer in Precolonial Nigeria
2. All Firearms Are Not Made Equal: Colonialism, Social Class, and the Emergence of a Nigerian Gun Society
3. "A Dane Gun Is Useless without Gunpowder": The Political Economy of Nigeria’s Most Popular Explosive
4. "All Europeans in This Country Should Be Able to Fire a Rifle": Race, Leisure Shooting, and the Lethal Symbol of Imperial Domination
5: "Bread and Bullet": Guns, Imperial Atrocity, and Public Disorder
6: A Fearful Weapon: Violent Crime and Gun Accidents in Everyday Nigeria
7: "You Are to Be Robbed of Your Guns": Firearms Regulation and the Politics of Rights and Privilege
Epilogue: Guns and the Crisis of Development in Postcolonial Nigeria