“The War, like the Wicked Wand of a Wizard, Strikes Me and Carry Away All that I Have Loved:” Soldiers’ Family Lives and Petition Writing in Ijebu, Southwestern Nigeria, 1943–1945

Title“The War, like the Wicked Wand of a Wizard, Strikes Me and Carry Away All that I Have Loved:” Soldiers’ Family Lives and Petition Writing in Ijebu, Southwestern Nigeria, 1943–1945
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsCoates, Oliver
JournalHistory in Africa: A Journal of Method
Volume45
Pagination71-97
Date Published06/2018
Abstract

The social isolation of the African soldiery is a recurrent assumption in the historiography of the Second World War in Anglophone Africa; such factors as the experience of Hausa soldiers within a cohesive barracks community, a strong sense of warrior identity, and few ties to civilian life are too often generalized into an account of the soldiery as necessarily isolated. Focusing on Ijebu in southwestern Nigeria, an area with little history of colonial military service prior to the Second World War, this paper will argue that far from being deeply isolated, Ijebu soldiers and their families strove desperately to maintain customary obligations during the men’s military service in South Asia and the Middle East in 1944 and 1945. By examining soldiers’ petitions to the Ijebu District Officer, as well as petitions from their wives, brothers, and parents, we will see that soldiers were bound by a powerful sense of obligation to their extended family not only in terms of financial support, but also in relation to labor, security, administration, and redistribution. Contextualizing these sources in terms of the ethnography of customary obligations in southwestern Nigeria, this paper will argue that neither soldiers nor their families primarily regarded these men as martial professionals, but instead perceived soldiering as a subordinate and secondary concern to family and economic commitments, as expressed through customary obligations. [Author]

Short TitleHistory in Africa: A Journal of Method
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