"A terrain ... angels would fear to tread": Biographies and history in Nigeria


  • Olutayo C. Adesina University of Ibadan, Nigeria




Biography, History, Diverse, Feedbacks, Authors, Subjects, Nigeria, Modern, Historical oblivian


Biography can be a site of contestation. It can also serve as a canvas for a better understanding of the fundamentals of an uncertain and complex world. It engages in a remarkable interface of theory and practice as historical biographers seek to understand the genre from the perspective of modern historical scholarship and the problematic of life and existence in a dynamic world. The writing takes place within specific socio-cultural and political contexts and historiographical traditions and trajectory. This paper presents diverse experiences, developments, and issues in the production of biographies in the context of historical reconstruction within the field of history in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous and uniquely diverse country. The relationship between the practice of writing of biographies, the acquisition of relevant sources, critiques of the works produced, and the use of peoples’ recollections as sources have provided immense historical, political, moral, social and philosophical issues and illuminations of the contexts in which the subjects lived. Feedbacks and criticisms of the authors and subjects of these biographies have similarly produced both a better understanding of modern historical biographical writing in Nigeria, the challenges, and the nuanced reactions of people to those whom they thought should be the focus. It also dictates how they should be remembered and indirectly gives a synoptic understanding of those considered by others as “worthy of being consigned to historical oblivion”.


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