ABOUT THIS BOOK
In 2003, Olufemi Vaughan received from his ninety-five-year-old father, Abiodun, a trove of more than three thousand letters written by four generations of his family in Ibadan, Nigeria, between 1926 and 1994. The people who wrote these letters had emerged from the religious, social, and educational institutions established by the Church Missionary Society, the preeminent Anglican mission in the Atlantic Nigerian region following the imposition of British colonial rule. Abiodun, recruited to be a civil servant in the colonial Department of Agriculture, became a leader of a prominent family in Ibadan, the dominant Yoruba city in southern Nigeria. Reading deeply in these letters, Vaughan realized he had a unique set of sources to illuminate everyday life in modern Nigeria.
Letter writing was a dominant form of communication for Western-educated elites in colonial Africa, especially in Nigeria. Exposure to the modern world and a growing sense of nationalism were among the factors that led people to begin exchanging letters, particularly in their interactions with British colonial authorities. Through careful textual analysis and broad contextualization, Vaughan reconstructs dominant storylines, including themes such as kinship, social mobility, Western education, modernity, and elite consolidation in colonial and post-colonial Nigeria. Vaughan brings his prodigious skills as an interdisciplinary scholar to bear on this wealth of information, bringing to life a portrait, at once intimate and expansive, of a community during a transformative period in African history.