Portrait of the Author as a Historian: Chinua Achebe

The son of a country whose history had been written by outsiders, Chinua Achebe recognised the need for African literature with a Nigerian voice, writes Alexander Lee.

Chinua Achebe at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, 1970sWhen University College, Ibadan opened its doors for the new academic year in the autumn of 1951, Nigeria was in the grip of political ferment. Since its earliest days as a British colony, it had been governed through a clumsy and unpopular system of indirect rule. Now, in the aftermath of the Second World War, its people were agitating for greater self-government. Earlier that year, the Governor-General, Sir John Macpherson, had introduced a new constitution granting limited powers to a House of Representatives. In the elections held over the following months, nationalist parties won victories in each of the colony’s three regions and demanded further reforms, which they hoped would pave the way for full independence.

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