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Treaties as a central diplomatic tool in the ‘legal’ pacification, and colonisation of the Western Lower Niger, 1884-1914

Ariye, Ekpotuatin Charles

Treaties as a central diplomatic tool in the ‘legal’ pacification, and colonisation of the Western Lower Niger, 1884-1914 Thumbnail


Ekpotuatin Charles Ariye


Rachel Bright


This thesis is a case study of Great Britain’s colonisation of a few indigenous, contiguous peoples of the Western Lower Niger from 1884 to 1914. These are the Itsekiri, the Western Ijo, the Urhobo, the Isoko and the Ukwuani of present-day Delta State of Southern Nigeria. These case studies were used to ascertain whether, between treaty diplomacy and conquest, which was the central means employed by Great Britain in the colonisation process. The existing standard historiography of Great Britain’s expansion in Nigeria had often emphasised the theme of violence in Great Britain’s relations with indigenous peoples, leaving out totally or paying scant attention to instances of treaty-making. This dissertation challenged this long-held narrative of force as a general means of empire-building by Great Britain in Nigeria. This gap in the standard historiography engendered an understanding of the legal background of European colonialism, bringing out the influence of legal Positivism, the creation of hierarchies of sovereignties, of civilized and uncivilized societies, and how these concepts were used by Europeans to justify empire-building. The practicalities of Great Britain’s use of treaties for colonisation in other areas before the Scramble were highlighted, to indicate, the deployment of legal tools for territorial acquisition and colonisation. The combination of treaty-making, the role of men on the spot, driving the colonial process, and indigenous conditions were reflected on within the context of this dissertation to argue, in the face of the available evidence that, Great Britain’s colonisation of the case study areas was mainly through treaty diplomacy and not by military conquest as was the case with some other Nigerian groups. This research adds to recent historiography that explored previously under-investigated aspects of the age of empire; that in some cases in the course of expansion, the use of force was not a first step choice for the imperial power.

Thesis Type Thesis
Publication Date 2021-03
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023


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