Nigeria History

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The territory of what is now Nigeria was occupied for many centuries by a number of different nationalities or ethnic groups, each one of which held a separate area, with its own culture and language. Prior to the arrival of the British, these groups were organized into tribes, clans, states, and even empires. The northern sections were converted to Islam in the twelfth century, while the southern areas tended to follow native beliefs.

Although there was no central authority in the region until the coming of the British, there was an extensive cultural and commercial contact, especially through the slave trade. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, it is estimated that 20,000 men and women were transported each year to the Americas from major slave trading centers along the coast of Nigeria.

After the decline and eventual abolition of the slave trade, other European powers left the area. The British remained, however, to develop trade and commerce. They began a series of explorations of the interior of Nigeria following the Niger river. Eventually, protectorates were established over northern and southern Nigeria, which, together with the colony of Lagos, came under direct control of the British government in 1900.

In 1914, the colony and protectorate of southern Nigeria were united with the protectorate of Nigeria. Each area, however, continued to be administered more or less separately. Nigeria became independent in 1960. However, separatist tendencies continued culminating in a civil war between the eastern region, which attempted to form the Republic of Biafra, and the central government. The revolt was eventually put down by force and despite occasional unrest, the country has subsequently remained united.[1]



  1. The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Nigeria,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1993-1999.