History of Niger
History of Niger
- Abdourahmane IdrissaAbdourahmane IdrissaAfrican Studies Centre, Leiden University
Until the late 19th century, the central Sahel was a trade corridor between West and North Africa, which, especially since the fall of Gao at the end of the 16th century, had become a fairly violent and chaotic place. Around 1900, the French added to the violence when they undertook to conquer it and set up a colony there. From that point, two competing but intertwined histories began to evolve: the history of the colony and that of the nation. The French tried to make the colony work for French commerce, albeit under the self-defeating premises that the place had no economic value and its people were more burden than asset. A cash crop—groundnuts—eventually started to make exploitation colonialism profitable in the 1930s, but after World War II, a new Zeitgeist saw the rise of the ideas of economic development and political independence. By then, colonialism had unwittingly fostered a Nigerien society, which turned nationalistic in this context. National development became the general theme of Niger’s history until the late 1980s. Colonialism was criticized for failing to achieve it; dissension arose between Niger’s leading politicians of the 1950 over the methods—radical or moderate—with which it should be pursued; a coup in 1974 was made in its name. The theme of national development grounded regimes that claimed to act through a “development administration” (1960–1974) or a “development society” (1974–1991). This seemingly bland concept was thus the source of the dramatic contests and upheavals and the driving force of the Nigerien project, until it became history some decades ago.
- West Africa