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A History of the Republic of Biafra
Law, Crime, and the Nigerian Civil War

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  • Date Published: October 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108743914

$ 29.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • The Republic of Biafra lasted for less than three years, but the war over its secession would contort Nigeria for decades to come. Samuel Fury Childs Daly examines the history of the Nigerian Civil War and its aftermath from an uncommon vantage point – the courtroom. Wartime Biafra was glutted with firearms, wracked by famine, and administered by a government that buckled under the weight of the conflict. In these dangerous conditions, many people survived by engaging in fraud, extortion, and armed violence. When the fighting ended in 1970, these survival tactics endured, even though Biafra itself disappeared from the map. Based on research using an original archive of legal records and oral histories, Daly catalogues how people navigated conditions of extreme hardship on the war front, and shows how the conditions of the Nigerian Civil War paved the way for the country's long experience of crime that was to follow.

    • An accessible account of the Nigerian Civil War using previously unexamined legal records and oral histories
    • Examines the connection between warfare and crime, both in postcolonial Africa and within a global context
    • Demonstrates how the conditions of the Nigerian Civil War paved the way for the country's long experience of crime that was to follow
    Read more


    • Honorable Mention, 2021 Peter Gonville Stein Book Award, American Society for Legal History

    Reviews & endorsements

    ‘One of the most critical, systematic and lucid analyses of the unravelling of the pre-Civil War social order in Nigeria. Daly takes legal history and unfurls it as social history - and vice versa - in a vivid and intense narrative of the shape of everyday life in the secessionist enclave of Biafra and beyond. This is an extraordinary account of the different dimensions of life in wartime as well as in immediate post-war Nigeria. An eloquent testimony to the barbarity of war as well as its shattering banality.’ Wale Adebanwi, University of Oxford

    ‘Using surviving Biafran court records, supported by oral histories, Daly vividly shows the disintegration of traditional norms and behavior, presenting a compelling case that lawlessness in Nigeria emerged directly from wartime conditions. A valuable and unique contribution to current reassessments of the Nigerian Civil War.’ S. Elizabeth Bird, University of South Florida

    ‘Much more than a history of the breakaway Republic of Biafra, this book is a mediation on how the Nigerian civil war emerged from, reconstituted, and scarred government institutions. It is simultaneously sensitive social history and a provocative attempt to explain postwar Nigeria’s corruption and political dysfunction.’ Steven Pierce, University of Manchester

    ‘With a powerful and thoughtful analysis, Daly shows how secession and civil war remake a nation and national culture. Nigeria after 1970 is not a case of lost causes and triumphant nationalisms, but of stolen weapons and survival strategies that spread from the war zone to the scams in our in-boxes.’ Luise White, University of Florida

    ‘A striking mixture of the human interest of ‘true crime’, and theoretical insight into the operation of ‘lawfare’ in a breakaway state at war … The legal history of Biafra offers a West African parable of power and idealism.’ Barnaby Crowcroft, Times Literary Supplement

    ‘Daly’s fieldwork in Nigeria and his inspiring prose make this work an important addition to the growing literature of Nigeria’s tumultuous civil war … Indeed, this work should serve as a call for other scholars to examine how the legal system across the continent and beyond dealt with societal stresses and conflicts and the scars they left in their wake.’ Roy Doron, H-Net Reviews

    ‘… the book is presented in a simple … language and is easily comprehensible for readers across all categories.’ Alex Amaechi Ugwuja, Journal of African Military History

    ‘Daly … makes an original contribution to this topic based on solid archival papers and court records. His is a major forensic work on how the context of deprivations and scarcity produced unusual criminal activities … Here is a masterpiece that teaches readers how to write a good history book. Highly Recommended.' T. O. Falola, Choice

    ‘… It is through the lens of social history that the book is arguably most powerful …’ Douglas Anthony, International Journal of African Historical Studies

    ‘… a masterful book that musters compelling evidence from a range of sources to make a convincing case about the historical underpinnings and political ramifications of criminality in contemporary Nigeria.’ Daniel Jordan Smith, Journal of Interdisciplinary History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108743914
    • length: 286 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.427kg
    • contains: 10 b/w illus. 1 map
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Law, order, and the Biafran national imagination
    2. Sworn on the gun: martial violence and violent crime
    3. Counterfeit country: fraud and forgery in Biafra
    4. Burying the hatchet: the problems of postwar reintegration
    5. 'A long heated moment': violent crime in the east central state
    6. No longer at ease: fraud and deception in postwar Nigeria
    Epilogue: war crimes and crimes of war
    Archival collections consulted

  • Author

    Samuel Fury Childs Daly, Duke University, North Carolina
    Samuel Fury Childs Daly is Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies, History, and International Comparative Studies at Duke University. An historian of twentieth-century Africa, he is the author of articles in journals including Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, African Studies Review and African Affairs.


    • Honorable Mention, 2021 Peter Gonville Stein Book Award, American Society for Legal History
    • Winner, 2022 Fage and Oliver Monograph Prize, African Studies Association of the United Kingdom

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