Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria: Firearms, Culture, and Public Order by Saheed Aderinto

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Title: Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria: Firearms, Culture, and Public Order
Author: Saheed Aderinto
Publication Date: January 6, 2018
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Length: 336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-253-03161-7


Saheed Aderinto’s Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria delves into the multifaceted roles firearms played in Nigerian society during the colonial era. It challenges traditional perspectives that often limit the discussion of guns to their military use, offering instead a broader socio-cultural analysis. Aderinto explores how the colonial introduction and subsequent proliferation of firearms influenced various aspects of Nigerian life, including leisure activities, ceremonial practices, and social status.

Key Themes

  1. Cultural Integration of Firearms: Aderinto illustrates how firearms were not just tools of violence but became woven into the fabric of everyday life in colonial Nigeria. Guns were used in hunting, ceremonial events, and as symbols of power and prestige.
  2. Economic Impact: The book examines the economic dimensions of firearms, detailing how their trade affected local economies and contributed to the broader colonial economy. The political economy of gunpowder and firearms trade highlights the interplay between local needs and colonial policies.
  3. Colonial Policies and Social Stratification: The author discusses how colonial authorities regulated firearms, often using them to enforce social hierarchies and maintain public order. The distribution and regulation of guns also reflected and reinforced social and racial divides.
  4. Violence and Public Order: The book addresses the dual role of firearms in both contributing to public disorder and being used as tools for maintaining colonial control. It documents instances of violent crime and accidents involving firearms, shedding light on the complexities of gun-related violence in colonial Nigeria.
  5. Technological Transfer and Adaptation: A significant portion of the book is dedicated to tracing the historical journey of firearms from their introduction by Europeans to their adaptation and domestication within Nigerian society. Aderinto argues that this transfer was part of a larger process of technological and cultural exchange.

Critical Reception

Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria has been praised for its thorough research and engaging narrative. Scholars have commended Aderinto for his ability to weave together diverse sources, including oral histories, archival documents, and contemporary reports, to present a comprehensive picture of the role of firearms in colonial Nigeria. The book has been noted for its innovative approach to understanding colonial history and its implications for modern debates on gun control and violence.


Saheed Aderinto’s Guns and Society in Colonial Nigeria is an essential read for anyone interested in African history, colonial studies, or the socio-cultural impact of technology. By examining firearms within the broader context of Nigerian society, Aderinto provides valuable insights into how these weapons shaped and were shaped by the cultural, economic, and political landscapes of colonial Nigeria.

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