Time, Space, and Transnational Flows: Critical Historical Conjunctures and Explaining Change in Northern Nigerian Agriculture

  • Louise D. Lennihan


In this chapter Lennihan presents us with an approach to the understanding of historical change that centers on the examination of the intersection of social and environmental events. In this example, she accounts for the progressive adoption of wage labor among the rural Hausa of Northern Nigeria in the first part of the twentieth century. The puzzle presented to historians by this case is that wage labor was established even though the rural population was not deprived of its land, and continues to this day to maintain widespread individual land ownership. Nevertheless, landowners found themselves obliged to obtain wage labor through cash payment. Lennihan traces the progressive development of dependence upon cash itself in what was formerly an economy and society where labor, to a large extent, was provided by the household, sometimes including slaves, and neighbors. This arose through a series of political, economic, and environmental crises that are directly related to the region’s interactions with distant regions through colonialism and trade. Initially, local farmers are obliged to grow export commodities such as cotton in order to pay taxes imposed by British colonial authorities; the values of their crops vary with international trade conditions, which themselves reflect a variety of local situations elsewhere. At the same time, their own local conditions vary with the weather. When two or more such shifts—such as a drop in the price of cotton and several successive years of drought—occur together, farmers are forced to adopt wage labor even though they own land. Lennihan refers to such intersections of social, political, economic, and environmental events as “critical historical conjunctures” that should provide useful keys to historical investigation.


National Archive Wage Labor Human Ecology Shipping Lane Cotton Price 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Louise D. Lennihan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHunter College, City University of New YorkNew YorkUSA

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