Igbo - History and Cultural Relations



Contemporary views in Igbo scholarship dismiss completely earlier claims of Jewish or Egyptian origin—that is, "the Hamitic hypothesis"—as "the oriental mirage." Instead, there are two current opinions as a result of evidence derived from several sources that take into account oral history, archaeology, linguistics, and art history. One suggests the Awka-Orlu uplands as the center of Igbo origin, from which dispersal took place. The second and more recent opinion suggests the region of the Niger-Benue confluence as the area of descent some five thousand years ago, and the plateau region, that is, the Nsukka-Okigwe Cuesta, as the area of Igbo settlement. This first area of settlement would include Nsukka-Okigwe and Awka-Orlu uplands. The southern Igbo would constitute areas of later southward migration.

Until about 1500, major economic, social, and political transformations led to continuous outward migrations from overpopulated and less fertile Igbo core areas to more fertile lands, particularly east of the lower Niger River. The Igbo had cultural relations with their various neighbors, the Igala, Ijaw (Ijo), Urhobo, Edo, and Yoruba. From 1434 to 1807, the Niger coast was a contact point between European and African traders. This was also the period of trade in slaves; this activity resulted in the development of many centralized states owing to greater economic accumulation and the development of more destructive weapons of war. The Portuguese came to Nigerian coastal towns between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; they were the first Europeans to make contact with the Igbo. The Dutch followed in the seventeenth century, and the British came in the eighteenth century. In the late nineteenth century, mission Christianity and colonialist interest worked together for the colonization of Igboland. The Church Missionary Society and the Catholic Mission opened their missions in Onitsha in 1857 and 1885, respectively.

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