Niger is the quintessential Sahelian country. Its territory lies entirely in that hot and arid steppe where the West African savanna gradually shades into the Sahara desert, constituting also a meeting ground between “Sudan” and “Bidan” (i.e., between “black” and “white” Africa). For centuries, this was a corridor for trade routes connecting the Mediterranean seaboard to centers of wealth and empire in West Africa, notably the Songhay Empire in the 16th century and the Hausa city-states until the early 20th century. Assembled almost as an afterthought of French colonial expansion around 1900, the country has long remained very much of marginal interest for international scholarship, although it has drawn focused attentions in particular areas of research. Thus, it is a darling of paleontology, and a Western passion for the Tuareg has yielded an enormous, if rather disproportionate, literature on the desert nomads. Yet Niger’s specificities lie precisely in its apparent marginality, which has allowed for the development of cultures away from the homogenizing force of the imperial (Ghana, Mali, Songhay) and state (Hausa city-states) hegemonies that controlled people in neighboring countries. As a result—although with the homogenizing overlay of Islam, a religion that became universal in the country during the colonial period—Niger is a richly diverse country, united by one dominant factor: a common resilient adaptation of people to the harsh Sahelian environment. Sitting at the juncture between North and West Africa, on the one hand, and Nigeria and the French-speaking Sahel, on the other, Niger is a crossroads that paradoxically draws its sense of national unity from the centrifugal forces that come from its peculiar geostrategic position. Latterly, interest in the country has diversified and expanded, and scholarship on many more aspects of its culture and history is being produced. One can therefore better grasp the pivotal role actually played by its peoples and territory in West Africa, past and present. Much of this output is, however, in French.
General works on Niger are sparse. There are only three comprehensive histories, and two of these, Séré de Rivières 1965 and Fuglestad 1983, stop at independence. Salifou 2010 is a more recent general history, first published in 1990. Salifou also authored a general presentation of the country, which combines the qualities of a textbook and those of a tourist guide (Salifou 2003). Volume 38 (June 1990) of Politique Africaine (Special Issue: Le Niger: Chroniques d’un Etat), the flagship French journal on politics in Africa, chronicles Niger’s political and economic evolution leading to the early 1990s, dealing with the rise and fall of the developmental state. Donaint and Lancrenon 1976 is an overview of the country; though dated, it still presents an accurate image of socioeconomic conditions in Niger, given that no structural transformation has occurred since it was published. On the Sahel and the West African region as a whole, mention may be made of Giri 1994, which provides a historical panorama (Giri 1994), and Mato 2007, an edited volume on Niger in West Africa.
Donaint, Pierre, and François Lancrenon. Le Niger. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1976.
A short but detailed overview of Niger, with an emphasis on socioeconomic conditions by the mid-1970s. The conditions described remain much the same, even as the population has more than quadrupled since the 1970s.
Fuglestad, Finn. A History of Niger, 1850–1960. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
A narrative of over a century of Nigerien history leading to political independence in 1960. Aspects of this work are dated in terms of sources and some of the theoretical perspectives. However, it remains an invaluable, well-researched study for the period considered.
Giri, Jacques. Histoire économique du Sahel: Des empires à la colonisation. Paris: Karthala, 1994.
This medium-size volume by a nonhistorian introduces the history of the Sahel from prehistorical times to the eve of colonialism, with an emphasis on economic structures and change. The work has no original thesis, but it is a handy resource on a subject that has seldom, if ever, been charted in a single volume.
Mato, Maman Waziri, ed. Les Etats-nations face à l’intégration régionale en Afrique de l’Ouest: Le cas du Niger. Paris: Karthala, 2007.
A collection of studies on Niger’s insertion—formal and informal, political and economic, past and present—in the West African region by Nigerien scholars, in a series on West African regional integration. Each essay in the volume is followed by a comment piece by a different scholar.
Raynaut, Claude, and Robert Buijtenhuijs, eds. Special Issue: Le Niger: Chroniques d’un Etat. Politique Africaine 38 (June 1990).
This special issue of Politique Africaine offers an analytical review of Niger’s first thirty years of independence. Articles cover the evolution of political institutions, the political role of the military, traditional chieftaincy, the Tuareg, economic dynamism, crisis, and aid.
Salifou, André. Histoire du Niger: Époques précoloniale et coloniale. Paris: Nathan, 2010.
The general history of reference of the country. It covers the medieval era and provides overviews of the histories of Niger’s ethnic societies across the centuries, with a stress on the Hausa, the Songhay-Zarma, and the Tuareg. The book was first published in 1990 and stops with the fall of Niger’s first republic, in 1974.
Salifou, André. Le Niger. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2003.
A general introduction to Niger that includes geographic descriptions, light history covering several centuries, and a factual presentation of recent events, both political and economic, into the late 1990s.
Séré de Rivières, Edmond. Histoire du Niger. Paris: Berger-Levrault, 1965.
A history of Niger’s peoples from precolonial centuries to the early years of independence.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
- Achebe, Chinua
- Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
- African Socialism
- Africans in the Atlantic World
- Aid and Economic Development
- Arab Spring
- Arabic Language and Literature
- Archaeology and the Study of Africa
- Archaeology of Central Africa
- Archaeology of Eastern Africa
- Archaeology of Southern Africa
- Art, Art History, and the Study of Africa
- Arts of Central Africa
- Arts of Western Africa
- Asante and the Akan and Mossi States
- Bantu Expansion
- Benin (Dahomey)
- Botswana (Bechuanaland)
- Brink, André
- British Colonial Rule in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Burkina Faso (Upper Volta)
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Children and Childhood
- China in Africa
- Christianity, African
- Coetzee, J.M.
- Colonial Rule, Belgian
- Colonial Rule, French
- Colonial Rule, German
- Colonial Rule, Italian
- Colonial Rule, Portuguese
- Communism, Marxist-Leninism, and Socialism in Africa
- Comoro Islands
- Congo, Republic of (Congo Brazzaville)
- Congo River Basin States
- Conservation and Wildlife
- Crime and the Law in Colonial Africa
- Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)
- Development of Early Farming and Pastoralism
- Diaspora, Kongo Atlantic
- Disease and African Society
- Early States And State Formation In Africa
- Early States of the Western Sudan
- Economy, Informal
- Education and the Study of Africa
- Egypt, Ancient
- Environmental History
- Equatorial Guinea
- Ethnicity and Politics
- Europe and Africa, Medieval
- Family Planning
- Farah, Nuruddin
- Food and Food Production
- Fugard, Athol
- Genocide in Rwanda
- Geography and the Study of Africa
- Gikuyu (Kikuyu) People of Kenya
- Gordimer, Nadine
- Great Lakes States of Eastern Africa, The
- Hausa Language and Literature
- Health, Medicine, and the Study of Africa
- Historiography and Methods of African History
- History and the Study of Africa
- Ijo/Niger Delta
- Image of Africa, The
- Indian Ocean and Middle Eastern Slave Trades
- Indian Ocean Trade
- Invention of Tradition
- Iron Working and the Iron Age in Africa
- Islam in Africa
- Islamic Politics
- Kongo and the Coastal States of West Central Africa
- Language and the Study of Africa
- Law, Islamic
- Literature and the Study of Africa
- Lord's Resistance Army
- Maasai and Maa-Speaking Peoples of East Africa, The
- Mau Mau
- Media and Journalism
- Military History
- Modern African Literature in European Languages
- Music, Dance, and the Study of Africa
- Music, Traditional
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
- North Africa from 600 to 1800
- North Africa to 600
- Northeastern African States, c. 1000 BCE-1800 CE
- Obama and Kenya
- Oman, the Gulf, and East Africa
- Oral and Written Traditions, African
- Police and Policing
- Political Science and the Study of Africa
- Political Systems, Precolonial
- Popular Culture and the Study of Africa
- Popular Music
- Population and Demography
- Postcolonial Sub-Saharan African Politics
- Seychelles, The
- Slave Trade, Atlantic
- Slavery in Africa
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Study of Africa
- South Africa Post c. 1850
- Southern Africa to c. 1850
- Soyinka, Wole
- Spanish Colonial Rule
- States of the Zimbabwe Plateau and Zambezi Valley
- Sudan and South Sudan
- Swahili City States of the East African Coast
- Swahili Language and Literature
- Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar)
- Traditional Religion, African
- Trans-Saharan Trade
- Urbanism and Urbanization
- Wars and Warlords
- Western Sahara
- Women and African History
- Women and Colonialism
- Women and Politics
- Women and Slavery
- Women, Gender and the Study of Africa
- Women in 19th-Century West Africa
- Yoruba Language and Literature
- Yoruba States, Benin, and Dahomey