Aro natives Cutting bush with matchets during the Anglo-Aro war, 1901.

HomeHistoryAro natives Cutting bush with matchets during the Anglo-Aro war, 1901.
"Aro natives making road for us by order outside Bendi [Bende] Cutting bush with matchets" during the 'Aro Punitive Expedition', or Anglo-Aro war, 1901. British Museum
“Aro natives Cutting bush with matchets during the ‘Aro Punitive Expedition’, or Anglo-Aro war, 1901. British Museum. Image courtesy: Ukpuru on X

This historical image from the British Museum depicts a scene from the Anglo-Aro War of 1901, also known as the Aro Punitive Expedition. It shows Arochukwu natives clearing bushland under British compulsion outside the town of Bende.

The Anglo-Aro War

The Anglo-Aro War was not merely a military conflict; it was a clash of cultures and ideologies. The Arochukwu people, along with other southeastern Nigerian communities, fiercely resisted British colonial expansion for over two decades. This prolonged resistance, as chronicled by Robert D. Jackson in “The Twenty Years’ War,” involved over 300 battles and resulted in the loss of at least 10,000 Nigerian lives.

The war had profound socio-economic repercussions for the Arochukwu people. Known for their significant role in the palm oil trade, the Aro Confederacy’s economic influence extended throughout eastern Nigeria and beyond. The conflict disrupted trade routes, diminished the Aro Confederacy’s power, and led to the eventual collapse of this once-powerful economic and political alliance.

The aftermath of the war saw the imposition of British colonial government in southeastern Nigeria, which brought about significant changes in the social structure and governance of the region. The British introduced new administrative systems, altered traditional power dynamics, and sought to integrate the local economy into the global market, often at the expense of indigenous practices and autonomy.

Photographs like this one are crucial in preserving the history of the Igbo people’s resistance against colonial forces. They serve as reminders of the resilience and determination of communities that stood against colonial domination.

Do you have stories from your family or community about the Arochukwu or the Anglo-Aro War? Sharing these narratives contributes to a richer understanding of our history and ensures that the legacy of resistance is remembered. Let’s piece together our past and keep the spirit of defiance alive in our collective memory.


Jackson, Robert D. The Twenty Years’ War. London: Longman, 1975.

Explore Further

For a deeper understanding of the Arochukwu’s role in the Anglo-Aro War and the impact of British colonial rule on southeastern Nigeria, consider reading:


Arochukwu: A Patriarch’s Reflections is a compilation of books and essays penned by the hand of the late George Moses Onwuchekwa a Barrister at Law, budding historian, and expert in the customs and traditions of the great nation of Arochukwu. Born and brought up in Arochukwu in the early 20th century, and blessed with photographic memory, G. M. Onwuchekwa spent time in what he calls Aroversity (the Arochukwu University of Understanding) under his father's tutelage. The books cover the genesis of Aro, its marriage customs, the history of the ruling lineage and his childhood memories of the place, its people and their customs. As the author clarifies, he has written from what he saw with his eyes (his experience) and heard with his ears (by way of oral tradition). The books included here are Arochukwu Marriage Customs, Arochukwu Land of my Birth, Arochukwu Golden Years, and The Okennachi Kindred. It also contains an essay on Arochukwu burial custom and his brief autobiography which provides a snapshot of the accomplishments of a literary genius and incisive historian

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AROCHUKWU: The Rise And Fall of Arochukwu And The Path To Rediscovery – December 27, 2023 by SAMUEL OKORO ONWUKWE

The Aros played a major role in southern Nigeria during the pre-colonial era and were a force to be reckoned with until they were overcome by British forces.

Years later, knowledge and information is been sought about happenings in the Arochukwu empire from 1400 to 1902.

Arochukwu is a must-read for every Aro, Igbo man, and anyone who seeks to go down memory lane and rediscover history.

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Perspectives On Aro History & Civilization: The Splendour of a Great Past – Illustrated, June 24, 2014 by Mazi Azubike Okoro and Mazi Ben Ezumah

The richest, largest and most authentic repository on Arochukwu history, culture and civilization; written by Aro, devoid of misinterpretations by outsiders and pseudo-historians. This incisive book series presents Aro history as it is, not as perceived by outsiders. Indeed, Aro now has its own history, told by her people.

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These books provide an in-depth look at the socio-economic structures of the Arochukwu Kingdom, the effects of the Anglo-Aro War, and the broader implications of British colonialism in Nigeria.

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Onyeka Nwokike
Onyeka Nwokike

Onyeka Nwokike, a graduate from the University of Nigeria Nsukka and a writer at Igbo Archives, is working to challenge common misconceptions and broaden understanding. He has curated a collection of historical photographs and artifacts for Igbo Archives, which helps to fill the educational gaps left by mainstream media and school curricula. His commitment to the celebration and conservation of Igbo heritage has made Igbo Archives an essential resource, cultivating a strong sense of pride and cultural identity within the Igbo community.

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