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Abstract

On the 2nd of November 2018, an unusual gathering took place at the Theatre Hall of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka where Paul Lovejoy, a Professor of History at York University in Canada, was hosted as the guest lecturer. His lecture dwelt on Gustavus Vassa (Olaudah Equiano) and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade: Representation, Identity and Reality. The curiosity of faculty members and students at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka around the thought process of this leading Africanist Historian made for a very fruitful event. The various debates raised by the iconoclastic scholar tampered with my sense of judgment as the convener; thus, I was convinced to re-evaluate Equiano’s narratives, particularly focusing on its gender dimension as well as its exploration of women’s involvement in pre-colonial Igbo warfare. This paper examines the views of academics on Equiano's narratives on warfare, especially Equiano’s various enigmatic assumptions he raises. In lieu of this, the thesis of this paper is that contemporary Igbo studies have a lot to gain from Equiano’s narratives in the reconstruction of the historiography of pre-colonial Igbo warfare, especially regarding the neglected role that women have played, as this is a fact not readily accepted by many professional Igbo historians. Furthermore, using Equiano’s narratives, this paper concludes that women were relegated in traditional Igbo settings, and the claim that Igbo society was democratic and republican was over exaggerated by nationalist historians.

Note on the Author

Uche Uwaezuoke Okonkwo holds a PhD in History and Strategic Studies of the University of Lagos, Nigeria. He teaches Social History with an emphasis on Women and Gender Studies in the Department of History and International Studies, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He is currently co-editing a book titled He Fought Babylon With His Lyrics: Life and Times of Ras Kimono 1958-2018.

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