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Sudanic Africa 3, 1992.



Collaborative Research in the Recovery of Documentation on the Conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate

Paul E. Lovejoy and Sydney Kanya-Forstner

The authors of this short notice are currently involved in the recovery of documentation on the conquest of the Sokoto Caliphate, the largest state in Africa at the time of the European partition of the continent at the end of the nineteenth century. The project is funded by the Social Science Humanities Research Council of Canada under a four-year grant in its Major Research Grant Programme. Currently, the project involves the two authors, two other co-investigators (one in the USA and one in Niger), and four Ph.D. students. In the course of the past year, other people involved in the project have included two under-graduates at York University, seven research assistants in Britain, France and Nigeria, and two other support staff. In addition numerous other scholars have become associated with the project.

Because of its size and complexity, the study of the Sokoto Caliphate has presented a serious problem to researchers for the past thirty years. Scholars in Nigeria and neighbouring countries have located Arabic documents that were held by private individuals; oral data has been collected; many Ph.D. theses, M.A. theses, and B.A. papers have been written on various aspects of the history of the Caliphate and its neighbours. Despite this tremendous effort, it is clear that there is much material still to be gathered, identified, and otherwise made available to the scholarly community. The project described here is not unique. The Northern History Research Scheme at Ahmadu Bello University, the Centre for Arabic Documentation at the University of Ibadan, and the Centre Nigérien de Recherches en Sciences Humaines in Niamey are but three institutions that have been actively involved in the collection and preservation of primary materials for several decades. The task of data retrieval has already involved a substantial outlay of human resources, and is likely to continue to do so.

As a focus, we have concentrated on the period from c. 1890-1906, the period when the Sokoto Caliphate fell to the invading armies of France, Germany and Britain and division of the Caliphate among the European powers. The difficulty of recovering material was complicated by the creation of new political boundaries and the use of three European languages in the subsequent colonial history of the former territory of the Sokoto Caliphate. It is our best guess that important documentation on the history of Sokoto Caliphate in the final years of its independence after c. 1890 is to be found in at least seventeen different countries, including Senegal, Burkino Faso, Niger, Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroun in Africa; Britain, France and Germany in Europe, and Canada and the USA in North America. Other materials exist in Sudan, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Turkey, and we suspect that important materials are in Australia and South Africa as well. The principal languages in which materials are known to exist include Hausa, Fulfulde, Arabic, Yoruba, Zarma, German, English, and French. There are materials in many other African languages as well.

The reasons for collaboration are readily apparent. It is simply impossible for scholars to examine materials that are already known in all the archives, libraries and research centres in the many countries in question. Furthermore, the retrieval of materials that have not been deposited continues. In addition to new documentation, there is the problem of language and accessibility. Hence, the translation of documents, particularly from Arabic and German into English or French is essential to make many documents more accessible, both to scholars and students, particularly in Africa.

Our approach to the retrieval and dissemination of materials has been essentially eclectic. In some cases, we have found documents that previously have been overlooked or used very rarely. In other cases, we have worked on materials that needed to be translated. In still other cases, we have located colleagues who have been engaged in projects of their own but who needed assistance in one or more stages of preparation and dissemination. The following is a brief discussion of some of the projects that are underway and a status report on their nearness to completion.

Inventory of Projects

One text has been published, viz. Paul Staudinger, Im Herzen der Haussaländer, Berlin 1889, as translated by Johanna E. Moody, In the Heart of the Hausa States, Athens: Ohio University, 1990, 2 vols.

The following projects are at various stages of completion:

1. Paul E. Lovejoy and A.S. Kanya-Forstner, eds., Enquête sur la captivité en A.O.F., by Georges Virgile Poulet (1905). Poulet was a colonial officer stationed in Senegal from 1896 until early 1905 and was instructed to prepare a long report on the history of French policy towards slavery in West Africa, especially in relation to an enquiry into slavery that was conducted throughout A.O.F. in 1904. Poulet recounts the evolution of French policy and legislation. There is considerable information on slavery in A.O.F., since Poulet had access to colonial reports and had first-hand experience as an administrator. The report was as important contribution to French policy at a crucial stage in its evolution. The text has never been published but is available in Dakar and Aix-en-Provence. The original French is maintained, but the introduction is in English. To be published by Michigan State University Press.

2. Paul E. Lovejoy and A.S. Kanya-Forstner, eds., L'esclavage en A.O.F. Étude historique, critique et positive, being an edited version of G. Deherme's analysis of colonial reports on slavery in A.O.F. and a comparison with the shorter, published version. Deherme's ms, which is based on the detailed reports from each cercle in A.O.F., is handwritten. Completed in 1906, it forms a useful companion to Poulet's history of French policy. To be published by Michigan State University Press.

3. A.S. Kanya-Forstner and Paul E. Lovejoy, eds., Pilgrims, Interpreters and Agents: French Reconnaissance Reports on the Central Sudan in the 1890s, 2 vols. Includes several accounts related to French reconnaissance in 1892-94. The longest is the account of Ahmed b. Muhammad al-Fellati of Kano, as recorded by Francis Rebillet in Tunisia, February-June 1892. This document contains sections on the political history of the Sokoto Caliphate, the region north of the Caliphate, economy and trade, and religion. A second account by Al-haj Adem Mahamma of Kukawa, also collected by Rebillet, is on Borno, and although much shorter than al-Fellati's report, contains interesting material on the Tijaniyya. A third report is by Messaoud Djebari of Algeria, who served as an Interpreter in the French army, and who accompanied al-Fellati on a secret mission to the Sokoto Caliphate in 1893-94 via Lagos, Ilorin and Bida. Djebari's account is particularly valuable as a source on Dahomey, Ijebu, Nupe, the Salaga civil war of 1894, and the Ibadan-Ilorin war of the same year. A fourth report is from information collected in Tunisia from Al-haj Muhammad Bubakar of Sokoto, who was the son of the madaki of Sokoto and a cousin of the Mahdist leader, Hayatu b. Sa'id. A fifth report is by J. B. Goguyer, another former Interpreter like Djebari, who lived in North Africa but had extensive contacts with merchants and pilgrims from Borno and the Caliphate. Goguyer's account of 1895 contains valuable information on Rabih b. Fadallah and Hayatu, as well as on the importance of the Tijaniyya in the Central Sudan. Finally, the brief account of Al-hajj Mohammed b. Adam of Bauchi, that dates to 1892, has some useful information on the route from Bauchi to Agades. Taken together, these accounts provide considerable new information on the Sokoto Caliphate and Borno in the 1890s, particularly in relation to the Tijaniyya and Mahdism. It may be that these accounts will form two volumes. To be published by Michigan State University Press.

4. Ann O'Hear, ed., The Letters of Carnegie. Carnegie was an early Resident in Ilorin Emirate of the Sokoto Caliphate, and was killed in action within in 1902. Relatives published a limited edition of a selection of his letters, which is very rare, and O'Hear has recovered additional letters that are included here. The material is useful on the early history of British colonial rule and the emirate of Ilorin. To be published by the African Studies Program, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

5. James Vaughan and A.H.M. Kirk-Greene, eds., The Diary of Hamman Yaji of Madagali. Hamman Yaji was emir of the small, sub-emirate of Madagali, located in northeastern Adamawa on the border with Borno. Madagali was successively under German, French and British rule during the period when Hamman Yaji was emir. The diary, originally written in Arabic but reproduced here from a slightly abbreviated translation into English (the original Arabic text is lost), contains valuable information on the daily concerns of the emir. Perhaps most startling, the diary records the enslavement of over 2,000 people between 1912-20, and details on many other aspects of slavery under colonial rule. Hamman Yaji was deposed in 1927 because of his activities as a slave raider and merchant.

6. Gisela Seidensticker-Brikay, ed. and trans., of Paul Krusius, Der Maguzawa, 1915. The Maguzawa are non-Muslim Hausa who live in Kano and Katsina Emirates and were classified as protected peoples under the Sokoto Caliphate. Krusius conducted field research among the Maguzawa before 1915 and published his account in German. The Maguzawa were later studied by Joseph Greenberg, but this early text is largely unused by scholars of the Caliphate and early colonial Northern Nigeria. Introduction by Abdullahi Mahadi, Director, Arewa House, Ahamdu Bello University.

7. Ibrahim Jumare and Paul E. Lovejoy, ed., Oral Data on Slavery and Trade, seven volumes. Original Hausa transcripts and English translations of selected interviews conducted in Hausa in Northern Nigeria:

  • Vol. 1: Zaria Emirate, interviews on slavery, plantations, and trade. Interviews conducted by Paul Lovejoy and Ahmadu Maccido.
  • Vol. 2: Sokoto Emirate, interviews on slavery, plantations, and trade. Interviews conducted by Ibrahim Jumare.
  • Vol. 3: Zaria Emirate, interviews on slavery, especially at the Biye and Hanwa plantations. Interviews conducted by J. S. Hogendorn and Ahmadu Maccido (among others).
  • Vol. 4: Kano Emirate, interviews on slavery, plantations, and trade. Interviews conducted by Yusufu Yunusa.
  • Vol. 5: Kano Emirate, interviews on slavery, plantations and trade. Interviews conducted by Yau Haruna.
  • Vol. 6: Hausa commercial history, with a concentration on the kola nut trade and salt distribution, especially in Kano Emirate. Interviews conducted by Paul Lovejoy.
  • Vol. 7: Kano Emirate, interviews on slavery and trade. Interviews conducted by A. Umar.

    8. Gerhard Rohlfs, Journey through North Africa from the Mediterranean to the Bight of Guinea, 1865-1867. Previously published in German as supplementary volumes to Petermann's Geographische Mitteilungen, 1868, 1872. Rohlfs travelled through Borno and the Sokoto Caliphate between 1865-67 and is a major source that has been virtually unused by scholars and students. Translation is underway by Johanna Moody.

    9. Umaru B. Ahmed and Gisela Seidensticker-Brikay, ed. and trans., The Trans-Saharan Sagas of Ahmadu Kano: Turbar Tarabulus and Rabeh. Translation and annotation of Rudolf Prietze, 'Wustenreise des Haussa-Händlers Mohammed Agigi. In Gesprächen geschildert von Hazz Ahmed aus Kano,' Mitteilungen aus den Seminar fur Orientischen Sprachen, III, 1924.

    10. Gisela Seidensticker-Brikay, ed. and trans., Prietze's Reports on the Sokoto Caliphate and Borno. Prietze collected numerous materials in Hausa and Kanuri in the period c. 1900-05 on various aspects of material culture, trade and history. He interviewed pilgrims and merchants in North Africa and published his findings in German in a variety of periodicals. This will be published in two volumes.

    11. Paul Constantin Meyer, The Origin and Organisation of the States of the Western Sudan, trans. E. Agar, 1898. Originally published in German in 1897, the Foreign Office had this account translated as part of its reconnaissance of the Sokoto Caliphate, Borno and neighbouring states. Meyer's study is a report based on a full reading of all documentation available to Europe in 1897, on the eve of the conquest. New introduction by Lovejoy.

    Future Directions

    Subject to renewed funding, the retrieval and preparation of documents will continue as follows. The main concentration will likely remain the translation of oral data and the translation of German materials, but there will be the publication of some additional French sources and the translation of some Arabic materials. In addition to the completion of the projects listed above, new projects include

    1. translation of 361 Arabic letters from the emirate of Bauchi and translation of a Hausa account of the Bauchi civil war (A. M. Yakubu, Department of History, and N. Y. Al-Jeboury, Department of Religious Studies, University of Jos).

    2. Monday Mangvwat, Department of History, University of Jos, to organize the publication of oral data collected in the 1970s on various topics relating to the history of the Jos Plateau.

    3. A. M. Yakubu and N. Y. Al-Jeboury will translate and edit a book by Imam Mahmud of Bauchi, written in Arabic, on the History of the Kings of Bauchi, 200 pages.

    4. Abdullahi Mahadi will edit and translate Taqyid akhbar jama'at al-Shaykh alladhin bi-Kanu wa-ma jara baynahum wa-bayn al-taghut min al-hurub, being an account of the jihad in Kano.

    5. A. S. Mohammed is collecting and translating various oral and written documents on the Satiru uprising of 1906. The material includes interviews, poetry, songs, and unpublished archival materials.

    6. Abdullahi Mahadi, Mansur Ibrahim and Lovejoy are annotating C. L. Temple's 'Notes on the History of Kano' (1909), which has only recently been discovered in the Kaduna archives.

    It is expected that many of these documents will be co-published in Nigeria and North America. Preliminary discussions have been held with the African Studies Program, University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University Press, and Ahmadu Bello University Press. York Lanes Press, Ltd. at York University is arranging the preparation of materials for publication.

    It should be noted that a conference will be held at Usmanu Danfodiyo University in Sokoto on the topic of 'The Sokoto Caliphate and the European Powers, 1890-1906,' in February 1993. The conference is jointly sponsored by Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Arewa House, Ahmadu Bello University, and the Social Science and Humantities Research Council of Canada. It is expected that a number of the documents will be available at the time of the conference.


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