chapter  Chapter I
30 Pages

The Genesis of British Interest in Nigeria

WithArthur Norton Cook

In July 1415 the modern era of European expansion was inaugurated when a huge armada put out from Lisbon to undertake the conquest of Ceuta. The city fell after a day of severe fighting in which Henry, the third son of King John of Portugal, greatly distinguished himself. British enterprise did not confine itself to trade in the natural products of the country, but also began to encroach upon the Portuguese monopoly in the slave trade. Traders became less scrupulous as to what they imported, and spirits, ammunition, and guns rapidly replaced less dangerous trade goods. It was only with the establishment of an organized administrative system along the coast, and the advent of the Royal Niger Company in the interior that conditions in Nigeria took a turn for the better. Interest in West Africa and Nigeria in particular was built up by the succession of explorers who did valiant service in their search for the mysterious and elusive Niger.