World War I and the Rise of African Nationalism: Nigerian Veterans as Catalysts of Change

TitleWorld War I and the Rise of African Nationalism: Nigerian Veterans as Catalysts of Change
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1982
AuthorsMatthews, James K.
JournalThe Journal of Modern African Studies
Date Published09/1982

The enlistment and conscription of combatants and non-combatants in Nigeria during World War I represented an unprecedented mobilisation of the country's labour force. In September 1914, the Nigeria Regiment supplied shock troops for the Cameroons Expeditionary Force, and in December 1917 the Nigeria Overseas Contingent entered the campaign in Tanganyika. By September 1919, when Nigeria's military recruitment drive ended, 17,000 combatants, 2,000 enlisted carriers, and some 35,000 non-enlisted carriers had participated in the Southern Cameroons and German East Africa campaigns. In addition, the British recruited thousands of Nigerians for military service along Nigeria's northern and eastern borders, and for related duties inside the country. These tens-of-thousands of Nigerian veterans acted as catalysts of change on their return home. Their experiences had altered ideas, attitudes, and habits during the war, and made them not only receptive to additional changes in the post-war years - especially socio-economic, military, and political - but also inclined to compel others to follow suit. The returned soldiers and carriers were, however, more accelerators of changes already under way in pre-war Nigeria than a force for new directions. This article explores and analyzes these changes.

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