History : Department of History



The Department of History was one of the earliest to be established at the University College, lbadan, when it opened on its temporary site at Eleyele Road in January 1948. By October of the same year there were 35 registered students taking History as one of their courses for the intermediate Arts degree programme.


The organisation of the Department was at first rudimentary. Until 1950 Mr. C. J. Potter and Mr. (later Chief) I. O. Dina were the only members of staff offering two major courses - outline courses in European and African history - for the Intermediate Examination. By 1951 when the first set of (three) students graduated with History as part of their B.A. (General) degree course, the range of courses in the Department had increased to five, with one additional member of staff, Dr. K.O. Dike who joined the Department in 1950.


The year 1952 was an important landmark in the history of the Department. In that year an Honours course in History was established in addition to the Intermediate and General Degree courses already being provided. The establishment of the Honours school was not merely a response to students' demands; it was the recommendation of the Visitation Report on the University College for 1952. The Visitors considered an Honours course in History good preparation not only for students who become specialist teachers in training colleges and schools, but also for students who will later enter political life, the administrative and other government services, the churches, journalism and broadcasting, commercial and industrial work and many other fields of public life. They also felt that a strong History Department would "directly assist" the work of other departments not only in the Humanities, but also in the Faculties of Science and Medicine. A strong History Department at Ibadan, in their view, would even play a leading role in the writing of African history.


The Honours degree course began with 14 students. The syllabus was carefully planned, though only a small proportion of it was devoted to African and West African history. Until 1964 the graduates of the Honours School (like all other categories of students) took the degrees of the London University under a scheme of ‘special relationship’ with that University.


The termination of the ‘special relationship’ with the University of London in 1962 provided an opportunity for an overhauling of the syllabuses within the Department. For both Honours degree and General degree students there was, after 1962, a strong emphasis on African, particularly Nigerian, history although at the same time adequate facilities were provided for the study of such other areas as the United States of America, the USSR and Europe.


As a response to further reorganisation of syllabuses within the now independent University of lbadan, the Department refashioned its courses in 1964. The concept of the B.A. General degree was dropped, students in the Department now being offered the choice between pursuing History as a main Honours course or, in combination with either Political Science or Sociology, as a Combined Honours course. The latest effort at reorganisation of syllabuses was the adoption of the Course System of teaching within the Faculty of Arts as a whole. A major objective in the adoption of the system has been to provide more variety and greater flexibility in the range of courses being offered to students.


From the early 1960s on, facilities were being provided for postgraduate work in the Department. The existence on the University campus of a branch of the Nigerian National Archives has been a very vital factor in this development. In 1964, the first crop of postgraduate students received the Ph.D. degree of this University. The postgraduate school soon established a reputation of its own.

The publications of the teaching staff have also immeasurably enhanced the image of the Department as a veritable research centre for African history. It is a fact worth mentioning that it was K.O. Dike's Trade and Politics in the Niger Delta: 1830-1835 (Oxford, 1956) which set in motion a new approach to African historiography amounting almost to a revolution in the academic world. No longer was African history the history of European activities on the continent. The African must be put in the centre of his own history. Such was the message of Dike's book.


The Department has played a vital part in the spread of this new approach to the study of African history. Over the years most of the teaching staff have been members of the Historical Society of Nigeria, contributing to its internationally known Journal of The Historical Society of Nigeria and the sister publication Tarikh. More important, the Department, in collaboration with Messrs Longman (Publishers), has established the ‘lbadan History Series’. The series, begun in 1965, now runs into about fifteen volumes. It is significant that all of them but one have been produced by men who have been connected with the Department either as students or as members of the teaching staff. As one would expect, the series is devoted to the exploration of diverse aspects of African history. The volumes so far produced have been highly acclaimed in the academic world. It is fair to say that one of the factors contributing to the international reputation of this University has been the "Ibadan History Series”.


If proof was needed that African History is a respectable field of academic study or intellectual pursuit, that proof was provided by the  ‘Ibadan History Series’ which has become celebrated for its high standard of historical scholarship. Indeed, it may be said that the series sums up the intellectual achievement of the History Department at Ibadan during the first twenty-five years of its existence.


The Ibadan historical tradition has, however, come under severe criticism in recent times. Its focus, it has been said, is too narrow, unmindful of the concept of 'total history', its concern or preoccupation being with the 'superstructure' of society (politics, administration, exemplified by studies in 'indirect rule'). The treatment of the economy is incidental, relegated to the realm of the residual, when, in fact, as the foundation of social reality, it should be central to the historical investigation, in the tradition of the 'mode of production' 'in Marxist social science. Even one of the contributors to the Ibadan Series, Prof. J. D. Omer-Cooper, has acknowledged its 'intellectual conservatism', its failure to incorporate the radical neo-Marxist approach to historiography.


The Department has taken on board these criticisms. A number of new courses have been designed to reflect the new approach. Thanks to Prof. J.F. Ade Ajayi, always abreast with the times, we now have a course on 'Development: Concepts and Realities in the Third World'. There is also a course on 'World Development', which attempts to study development on a comparative basis from the point of view of political economy. These courses, among others - which deal with the economy and society, and their structural relationship with the global capitalist environment encapsulated in the concepts of 'dependency' and ‘underdevelopment’ - as well as recent publications in the Department reflect the transformation taking place in the Department on the intellectual map of the world, to one that is in the mainstream of the contemporary historiographical revolution, now that its initial mission has been accomplished. The new historiography is now an integral part of our postgraduate programme, which has expanded considerably since the Silver Jubilee celebrations.


The Department has adopted a strategic development plan designed to refocus and re-position it for the challenges of the 21st century. Towards this end, new 3-units undergraduate courses and new M.A. degree are being proposed. At the undergraduate level, the following three units courses are being proposed for processing through the Faculty for the approval of the Senate.


(a)     History of Urbanisation in Nigeria

(b)     Social History of Nigeria

(c)     The Rise of Japan as a World Power

(d)    History of Economic integration of Africa

(e)     Ibadan from the Earliest Times to 1960

(f)     The Tiger Economies of South-East Asia

(g)     Modem India

(h)     Introduction of Social History


New M.A. degree courses are being designed for candidates who have special interests beyond the M.A. programme currently being offered by the Department. These may, in the nearest future, benefit from the following programmes:

(i)      M.A. International Economic Relations

(ii)     M.A. (Development Studies)

(iii)    M.A. (Transport Studies)

(iv)       M.A. (Diplomacy in Africa)

(v)         M.A. (History and Diplomacy)


In addition to the above, the Department is planning to expand its M.A. (History) by floating courses in Latin American History and the African diaspora.




The department has established a unit named Oral History, Documentation and Information Retrieval Unit. The aim of the unit is to collect and store oral information on a wide range of topics such as culture, migration, settlement and socio-political organisations and inter-group relations of Nigerian peoples. The purpose is to go beyond the official information usually given by traditional rulers and chiefs for grassroots traditions supplied by families and corporate communities outside the ruling families. It is necessary to collect valued traditions from old men and women in various Nigerian towns, cities and villages before they pass on. The unit provides materials for the writing of macro- and micro- history of various Nigerian communities and other aspects of Nigerian history. It serves as a centre for historical information and thus saves researchers the cost of travelling far and wide to collect oral data.

The unit also provides, inter alia, documents on vital issues of local, national and international interest. It keeps records of seminars on such issues. From time to time, the unit shall organise seminars on issues of National, Local and International importance. As a mini Archive, the unit stores magazines, newspapers, artefacts, private papers and other forms of documentation for appropriate future consultation.


Information stored would be made available on request by researchers, government agents, policy makers etc. on payment of small charges necessary for the upkeep of the unit and the provision of its relevant equipments. The unit is a veritable means of interaction between the town and the gown.