Missionaries in Pre-Colonial and Early Colonial Nigeria Essay

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Missionaries in Pre-Colonial and Early Colonial Nigeria

In any study of colonial Nigeria, the groundwork accomplished by the missionaries in pre-colonial days must be a central concern. They were instrumental in setting the scene which would meet the colonists when they started arriving. Missionaries were used by the colonial power as an avant garde, to expand into new regions, a fact keenly displayed by Achebe in Things Fall Apart. For many Nigerians, missionaries were the first Europeans with whom they came into contact.

The missionaries first made their presence felt through their work in abolishing the slave trade. As Crowder notes, they took the emphasis away from the ''human products'' of Africa in a bid to use more fully her
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Missionary interest in Africa achieved a similar level of British evangelical militancy to that of the 1650s, when the Interregnum witnessed a proliferation of Religious sects in the wake of the English Civil War.

In this atmosphere of religious zeal, the apparently barbaric and helpless Africans seemed an ideal area on which to demonstrate the benevolence of European society. The initial expeditionary feelers were sent out in 1841, approximately thirty years before serious colonisation began. The mission was funded by the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and for the Civilisation of Africa, one of the many such societies in existence at this time. Dickens parodies these societies with acute insight in Bleak House with his portrayal of Telescopic Philanthropy and its attempts at ''educating the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, on the left bank of the Niger'' (Chapter 4).

Crowder states that ''the expedition was the brain-child of men who were almost entirely ignorant of conditions in the interior of the Niger region'' (The Story of Nigeria, 112). When coupled with the ill-preparedness of the European administrators, this presents a potent image of the amateurish nature of early colonialism. It is an entirely different world to the image of Britain as a powerful imperialist nation, the very epitome of professionalism and skill.

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