Revisiting the Past: A History of European Wives in Colonial Nigeria, 1920-1960




British West Africa, colonial service, European wives, gender roles, Nigeria, women’s history


This article reconsiders the history of European wives in colonial Nigeria. It is an aspect of women’s studies that has elicited scholarly interest in the past three decades or so because of the peculiarities of the subject, gender and colonialism. The paper argues that the poor representations of this group in most colonial literature and male-authored memoirs were not an accurate reflection of colonial Nigeria. European women bypassed the hierarchies of Colonial Service and the trappings of imperial culture in Nigeria to create social inclusion and space. They also introduced British culture, diplomacy, cooperation and collaboration between the colonisers and the colonised. Using primary and secondary sources of data, official documents, journal articles, and internet materials to substantiate its claim, this paper reveals that European women’s history in colonial Nigeria was robust. It establishes that the policy change on White women’s exclusion in British West Africa was inevitable and existential because of interdependence, the challenges of malnutrition, and the desertion of soldiers. The paper concludes that the position of women cannot be overlooked in history, colonial society and culture.


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How to Cite

Nzemeka, J. A. (2023). Revisiting the Past: A History of European Wives in Colonial Nigeria, 1920-1960. Southern Journal for Contemporary History, 48(2), 89–112.