Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900

Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900
Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900

Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900 under the following sub headings:

  1. The growth of missionary activities in Nigeria
  2. The palm oil trade
  3. The growth of British influence in the Niger Delta
  4. The new imperialism and British conquest of southern Nigeria



Like so many other modern African States, Nigeria is the creation of European imperialism. Its very name–after the great Niger River, the country’s dominating physical feature–was suggested in the 1890s by British journalist Flora Shaw, who later became the wife of colonial governor Frederick Lugard. The modern history of Nigeria–as a political state encompassing 250 to 400 ethnic groups of widely varied cultures and modes of political organization–dates from the completion of the British conquest in 1903 and the amalgamation of northern and southern Nigeria into the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria in 1914. The history of the Nigerian people extends backward in time for some three millennia. Archaeological evidence, oral traditions, and written documentation establish the existence of dynamic societies and well-developed political systems whose history had an important influence on colonial rule and has continued to shape independent Nigeria. Nigerian history is fragmented in the sense that it evolved from a variety of traditions, but many of the most outstanding features of modern society reflect the strong influence of the three regionally dominant ethnic groups–the Hausa in the north, the Yoruba in the west, and the Igbo in the east.

There are several dominant themes in Nigerian history that are essential in understanding contemporary Nigerian politics and society. First, the spread of Islam, predominantly in the north but later in southwestern Nigeria as well, began a millennium ago. The creation of the Sokoto Caliphate in the jihad (holy war) of 1804-8 brought most of the northern region and adjacent parts of Niger and Cameroon under a single Islamic government. The great extension of Islam within the area of present-day Nigeria dates from the nineteenth century and the consolidation of the caliphate. This history helps account for the dichotomy between north and south and for the divisions within the north that have been so strong during the colonial and postcolonial eras.

Second, the slave trade, both across the Sahara Desert and the Atlantic Ocean, had a profound influence on virtually all parts of Nigeria. The transatlantic trade in particular accounted for the forced migration of perhaps 3.5 million people between the 1650s and the 1860s, while a steady stream of slaves flowed north across the Sahara for a millennium, ending at the beginning of the twentieth century. Within Nigeria, slavery was widespread, with social implications that are still evident today. The Sokoto Caliphate, for example, had more slaves than any other modern country, except the United States in 1860. Slaves were also numerous among the Igbo, the Yoruba, and many other ethnic groups. Indeed, many ethnic distinctions, especially in the middle belt–the area between the north and south–were reinforced because of slave raiding and defensive measures that were adopted for protection against enslavement. Conversion to Islam and the spread of Christianity were intricately associated with issues relating to slavery and with efforts to promote political and cultural autonomy.

Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900


The expansion of the missionary movement into Africa was part of the growing conception of Christian responsibility for the regeneration of African peoples. The anti-slavery issue and the humanitarian conscience also played a vital role in stimulating European interest in Africa and gave an impetus to mission work. It included the opening up of Africa to forces of change namely commerce (“legitimate commerce”, i.e. non-slave trade), Christianity, Civilization and Colonization. The others included the Christian responsibility for the regeneration of African peoples.

The achievement of the purpose of these Christian Missions came with some costs. Several missionaries died at a youthful age due to the unfriendly tropical climate.  Again, in West-Africa, the efforts to go beyond the coast to reach those inland with the gospel coincided with the southwards expansion of Islam which posed some threat to the expansion of the work of Christian evangelizing missions. The work of the missionaries also had little success initially. The people received the message with indifference. It was however in the coastal territories filled with mulattos and other European trading communities that Christianity won some of its early success.

The first Europeans arrived at the West-African Coasts at the end of the fifteenth century. For several years they paid attention to slave trade rather than evangelization and Christianization of the people of West-Africa. However, by the turn of the Nineteenth Century there was systematic efforts by churches of Christian Europe, namely: Anglicans, Methodists, and Baptists who were active in Sierra Leone and, with Presbyterians, in Nigeria, while Methodists also set up missions in Ghana, Gambia, and Dahomey. In the 19thh century, too, Afro-Brazilians returned to Benin and Nigeria with Catholicism.

A new era began with the settlements of Black Christians from Nova Scotia in Sierra Leone in 1787 and the missionary advance inland from Cape Town beginning with the arrival there of J. T. van der Kemp in 1799. New missionary societies (the LMS, the CMS, the Holy Ghost Fathers, the White Fathers, etc.) began work in many parts of Africa.

The CMS began to work in the freed slave villages in Sierra Leone in 1804 and the Methodist in 1811. The early success of the missionaries included areas like Freetown and surrounding villages. Some early success included the Liberian coast where Afro-Americans and freed slaves were converted.  The others include the French trading posts at Grand Bassam (Ivory Coast), Assinie and Libreville in Gabon.

Apart from the extreme south and the Horn, the interior was hardly touched by Europeans before the last quarter of the Nineteenth Century. At the end of the eighteenth century, the Evangelical Revival began to bring to Africa an influx of missionaries whose laoburs would produce the first fruits of an enduring Christian presence in Sub-Sahara Africa.

In the later 19th century, the immense African interior remained the principal object of the Catholic Priests, and from 1867 until his death in November 1892 Cardinal Lavigerie planned the planting of churches in Africa South of the Sahara. It is important to emphasize that the modern history of the Christian Mission in Africa started from the late Eighteenth Century, the Catholics had been there earlier in the first centuries of the Christian era especially during the first Portuguese adventures.

Therefore the period for the rise of Christianizing Missions in the late Nineteenth Century has been considered as reprise. The late Eighteenth Century witnessed the rise of Christian groups in Europe that resorted to the evangelization of Africa. For instance, on 2nd October 1792, the Baptist Missionary Society was formed followed by the interdenominational London Missionary Society which was established in 1795. The others include the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804, which was tasked with the responsibility of promoting the translation and printing of the Holy Bible. Initially, a majority of the missionary journeys was done with English-Speaking Protestants and later, in the 1820s and 1830s, they were joined by continental Protestantism from Germany, Switzerland and France. There were related organizations that sprang up in Scandinavia, Holland and the USA.

West Africa owes to the Christian missionaries not only a new religious faith which has changed the beliefs and life of millions of people, but also the foundation of western education. The Portuguese were the first to introduce the Christian faith into West Africa but following their departure from the West Coast in the mid-seventeenth century, the Christian religion survived only in Upper Guinea where a bishop was maintained in the Cape Verde Islands serving also a part of the mainland. It was not until the nineteenth century, that the new religion was really established in West Africa.


The establishment of the trade in palm oil was due to the industrial revolution in Europe and also as a replacement for the slave trade. As ‘people began to take washing seriously’, the oil was wanted for soap manufacture, and also for other industrial uses. In the 1830s, 11 000 –14000 tons of palm were exported per annum from West Africa; by 1870, exports from Niger delta were 25000 – 30000 tons; in 1911, British West African territories exported over 87000 tons, valued at £1,900,000. The exports of palm kernel began in 1832. In 1911, British West Africa exported 157000 tons, valued at £3,400,000, of which about 75 per cent came from Nigeria. At this time, the demand for palm oil and kernel exceeded the supply, all of which came from wild and semi wild palms.

In the late nineteenth century the West African palm oil trade entered a period of difficulties, characterized mainly by a fall in prices from the early 1860s. Part of the reason for this lay in the introduction of regular steamship services between Britain and West Africa from 1852. As steam came to replace sail so the palm oil trade underwent major changes. These changes can be quantified fairly precisely. One effect of the introduction of steamers was the concentration of the British side of the oil trade once again on Liverpool, its original centre. Another effect was the increase in the number of West African ports involved in the trade.

The most important impact was the increase in numbers of traders in oil trade from around 25 to some 150. The resulting increased competition in the trade led to amalgamations becoming increasingly common – a process that culminated in the formation of the African Association Ltd in 1889. It was also to provide the context for the pressure exerted by some traders for an increased colonial presence in the 1880s and 1890s.

The utilization of a relatively unused source, the Customs Bills of Entry, enables the structure of the British side of the West African palm oil trade to be studied in detail. Three main developments emerged in the period from 1830 to 1855 when the introduction of regular steamer services radically altered the trade. Firstly, Liverpool’s pre-eminence as the main British palm oil port began to be challenged by Bristol and London; secondly, Britain’s reliance on the Niger Delta as a source of supply appears to have proportionately declined, and thirdly, new traders entered the trade, especially after 1840, and challenged the hegemony of the older, established merchants. These structural changes suggest that the organization of the British side of the oil trade, hitherto controlled by a few large Liverpool traders, was breaking down from the 1840s and that this contributed to increased tension and rivalry among British traders in West Africa. This in turn helps to explain the development of the aggressive behaviour between British traders and African middlemen, noted in the Niger Delta in the 1860s, which led to the subsequent appeals for British imperial intervention.

The export of palm represented a surplus after the local The trade in palm oil and palm kernel attracted European merchants most of whom were agents of European trading firms mostly from Liverpool, Glasgow, London, Manchester, Birmingham, Lisbon, Spain and Paris. Flint explained that the merchants of Liverpool had much capital invested in the trade with West Africa and so: Were able to adjust and quickly took to the transition from slave trade economy to ‘cash crop’ economy by the first half of the nineteenth century.

Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900


The Niger Delta became a foundation segment of the Atlantic world in the beginning decades of the sixteenth century when pioneering Portuguese sailors explored its complex rivers and creeks, along with other regions of the African Atlantic, at about the same time as Christopher Columbus’s discoveries opened up the Americas to world commerce. The Portuguese dominated trade between Niger Delta, Europe, and the Americas for the entire century, trading on tropical food items from Africa and America (pepper, yams, cassava, sugar, and tobacco) and industrial goods from Europe (gin, gunpowder, clothes, and copper and iron tools). The Portuguese also pioneered in slave trade from the African Atlantic, including Niger Delta. In addition, they introduced agricultural plants (cassava, cocoa-yam, sugar) from tropical America to tropical African habitats while exporting such native Niger Delta plants as plantain and yams to tropical America.

In the seventeenth century other European nations joined in the Atlantic trade. With resources of the Industrial Revolution, England steadily gained considerable advantage in European competition for trade from Niger Delta. British efforts to abolish the slave trade from 1807 onwards ushered into the region a contentious new distinction between illegal slave trade and legitimate trade in agricultural produce and natural raw products. Abolition of the slave trade effectively ended the era of Portuguese dominance of Niger Delta, now replaced by British ascendancy.

Legitimate trade brought many European companies into Niger Delta commerce and changed its business dynamics in the nineteenth century. Slave trade had entailed necessary participation by Atlantic coastal chieftains as middlemen; legitimate trade rendered their role problematic. With expansion of legitimate trade, European contacts were pushed beyond the Atlantic coast into the Niger River’s inland basin. This new pattern of trade initially resulted in disorder and inefficiencies among competing European companies.

Such circumstances prompted the English businessman Sir George Goldie (1846–1925) to initiate negotiations that led to the consolidation of several small British and European companies into United Africa Company (UAC) in 1879. UAC’s fortunes improved rapidly as a consequence of the Berlin Conference (1884–1885) and the ensuing European scramble for African territories. Goldie’s UAC was chartered as the Royal Niger Company (RNC) by the British government in 1886 with a mandate and concessionary powers to operate in “all the territory of the basin of the Niger.”

The Royal Niger Company combined the trading functions of its predecessor UAC with the role of a British surrogate imperial power. As a trading company, the RNC established pioneering trading posts in the upper Niger Delta, beyond the Atlantic coast in which Europeans did business for centuries, and in Niger’s inland basin. The RNC had headquarters on the Niger, first at Asaba and later at Lokoja. Its trading prowess opened up the territories of several communities and nations with which European trade had previously been only indirect, including the Urhobo, Ukwuani, Ibibio, and Igbo in Niger Delta. The RNC’s trading relations also reached Muslim communities on the Niger and its tributaries in what is modern northern Nigeria.

The Royal Niger Company’s imperial activities were of two types. First, it made treaties with native chieftains. These pro forma agreements required signatory chiefs to declare, “We, the undersigned Chiefs . . . cede to the Royal Niger Company, for ever, the whole of our territory,” in exchange for the RNC’s promises to “to protect the said Chiefs” and pay monetary compensation for the RNC’s use of their land. The RNC had a military force for enforcing its imperial ventures, occasionally resorting to menacing tactics of gunboat diplomacy. Second, the RNC staved off rival claims of colonial territories by other European powers, thus, for instance, forestalling German and French claims in Sokoto and Borgu, respectively (1894). The RNC is credited with acquiring territories that eventually constituted the British colonies of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria, for which reason some British colonial historians dubbed Goldie, the RNC’s chieftain, the “father of modern Nigeria.”

The expansion of direct British colonialism in the 1890s beyond the Atlantic coast created problems for the Royal Niger Company’s imperial interests, but probably boosted its trading prospects. British creation of the Niger Coast Protectorate in 1891 and direct treaty making between the British Foreign Office’s agents and native chieftains challenged the RNC’s imperial surrogacy and led to disputes between it and the foreign office’s field agents. Eventually, in 1900, the RNC transferred its imperial functions and territories to the British government, receiving a compensation of 865,000 British pounds. It then reverted to its old name, United Africa Company.


New Imperialism is a period of colonial expansion by European powers, the United Sates, and the Empire of Japan during the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. Europe had colonies scattered all over the world before that, but at that time the amount of influence Europe had on these regions was minimal. Things changed at the end of the 19 th century to a more aggressive and extensive form of imperialism. In this ‘New Imperialism,’ European countries took over most of the rest of the world between the years 1870 and 1914, and had formal political, economic and social control over the new territories.

In 1914, the British Government completed their assignment of conquest and came up with what they called the Amalgamation of Nigeria . it was on that faithful day, 1st January 1914 that the different autonomous units, finally lost their hitherto political and cultural rights and collapsed into the governance of the Governor General appointed by the British Government in the over Lordship of Lord Fredrick Lugard. According to Tamuno T.N. (1980: 393) “by 1914 Britain had succeeded in making herself the new paramount ruler over most of Nigeria”. He also noted that there were still pockets of resistance after 1914, but “these and other instances of restlessness under increasing colonial role were forcibly suppressed with the assistance of the military and police resources at the disposal of the government. British rule in Nigeria was in the finally analyses buttressed by force or by threat of using it”.

Just as the British officials were making frantic efforts to subdue the people of the Yoruba land, other British Colonialists in the oil River Protectorate were also penetrating the people. They equally engaged in leveling accusations on “Stubborn” kings who fell apart with them. In the Bonny part of Nigeria the episode of Lagos in 1951 was replicated by BeeCroft. Just like king Kosoko of Lagos, king Pepple of Bonny so much valued his autonomy and sovereignty and did not want British interference of any sort. He was ready to resist any encroachment by any group or authority. He accused the British of violating the terms of Anti slave treaty of 1839 and 1841 in which the British authority promised to pay compensations.

Consequently, he organized anti-British activities that stopped trade with the merchants. This actually undermined the British commercial interests. He also attacked the Amakiri of Kalabari in 1853 and this brought trading in the oil River to a standstill. This prompted the British supercargoes at Bonny to invite John BeeCroft to come to their assistance. As a result of this, BeeCroft presided over a meeting of Court of Equity. In 1854, king Pepple was deported to Fenando Po. Although he was allowed to return in 1861, he remained a puppet until his death in 1866.

In Calabar, similar incident took place which brought about the invitation of British consul John BeeCroft to intervene. There arose in Efik a great presence of missionaries and liberated slaves. Some of the liberated slaves formed an association of “Blood Men” with the purpose of fighting for the course of the ex-slaves, especially against the activities of the Ekpe society.

In 1851, when some ex-slaves were arrested in Duke Town by the Ekpe society, the Association of Blood Men revolted threatening to burn the town. This generated a lot of tension and chaos in the area. British merchants were afraid that, this might cause the stoppage of trade. They therefore invited the British consul BeeCroft who eventually presided over the meeting that settled the matter. The outcome of the meeting was the reduction on the strength of the Ekpe society as some changes were made. In 1852, when king Archibong I died, BeeCroft presided over the election of the new king and so he had a tremendous influence on the selection of the new king. The implication is that the new king was afraid of the activities of the British agents and had no option than to act as a puppet.

As from the conclusions of scramble and partition of Africa agreement by the European powers in 1884 – 1885, in Berlin Conference in what is known as the scramble and partition of Africa, the British government made serious efforts at encroaching and acquiring Nigeria interiors especially the areas of economic potentials. Bonny and indeed Opobo was one of their areas of interest. Their encounter with Jaja of Opobo was one of their most difficult encounters. Before the coming of the British in Opobo, Jaja had grown to be regarded as one the richest African business man in the oil Rivers.

According to Onwubiko, (1983 : 236) “through sheer force of his own personality and rare business acumen, he became the wealthiest African trader in the oil rivers. In a treaty dated 4th January 1873, Jaja was recognized by the British as king of Opobo”. He was so much determined to protect his kingdom and sovereignty to the extent that he refused to sign treaty of protection. He demanded to know the full meaning of the word protection. He argued that protection may mean, losing his sovereignty . Onwubiko quoting J.C. Anene said that “ Jaja alone, out of all the coastal chiefs asked for a full explanation of what was meant by protection”. Jaja also rejected any section of the article referring to free trade. In a treaty with the British in 1884, he insisted that anything that has to do with free trade should be removed. In fact, he wanted to maintain the kind of monopoly that was enjoyed by the Royal Niger Company in Northern part of Nigeria.

Owing to Jaja’s difficulty in the wheel of the British colonization ambition, the then British Acting Consul Harry Johnston leveled serious accusations on Jaja. Harry Johnston employed character assassination, perfidy and treachery. Jaja was accused of making moves to sale his country to the French and of terrorizing the natives of the hinterland. Johnston’s several attempt to outsmart Jaja failed until he pleaded with Jaja to come for a peace deal. He invited him to come aboard the HMS Goshawk for discussions. Johnston wrote to Jaja that, “you will be free to come and go”.

Thinking that, it was an honest English man statement Jaja boarded the warship. Onwubiko noted that, in 1887, Johnston treasuriously lured Jaja into a warship and deported him to the West Indies in spite of the fact that he had promised not to detain him against his wish”. While in West Indies, Jaja continued to appeal to the British government to return him to Opobo. In 1891, when he eventually was allowed to return, he died on the voyage and his body was returned to Opobo and buried. His death in the voyage perhaps may not be unconnected with the British determination to remove him from the scene. With his death, the British government made further head way into the conquest of “stubborn” leaders of Nigerian descendants.

Asiwaju (1980:432) noted that, “In 1894, for reasons similar to the forceful removal of king Kosoko of Lagos in 1851, British political ambition in the Niger Delta led to the deportation of Nana, the Itsekiri, Headship of Ebrohimi and the resultant imposition of British rule over. (Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900)

Itsekiri land”. He quoted Salubi as saying that, it was the removal of Nana of Itsekiri and Oba Ovonramwew of Benin in 1894 and 1897 respectively that accelerated the pace of the extension of treaty of British autonomy over the Urhobo country which began in 1889 when the British concluded the treaty of protection with Abraka. (Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900)

It should be noted that owing to British interest to consolidate their authority on Benin kingdom, a prominent king of Benin, Oba Ovonramwew was deported and taken to exile in what is known as the British Expedition.

Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900



Great Britain abandoned the slave trade; however, other countries continued it until about 1875. In 1817 a long series of civil wars began in the Oyo Empire, they lasted until 1893, when Britain intervened. In 1861 Britain annexed Lagos. Eight years later (1879), Sir George Goldie gained control of all the British firms trading on the Niger, and in the 1880s he took over two French companies active there and signed treaties with numerous African leaders. In the following years, the British established their rule in SW Nigeria, partly by signing treaties (as in the Lagos hinterland) and partly by using force (as at Benin in 1897). Jaja, a leading African trader based at Opobo in the Niger delta and strongly opposed to European competition, was captured in 1887 and deported. Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900. (Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900)



Baker, Geoffrey, L. (1997).Trade Winds on the Niger: The Saga of the Royal Niger Company 1830–1971. London: I. B. Tauris. Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900

Ukpabi, Sam C. (1987). Mercantile Soldiers in Nigerian History: A History of the Royal Niger Company Army, 1886–1900. Zaria, Nigeria: Gaskiya. Examine the Nutrients in Euro-Nigerian Relations from 1850-1900

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