Professor Gloria Emeagwali

Colonialism is a system of administration; a process of exploitation; and a

production system often geared towards the creation of capitalist relations and

the economic and socio-cultural aggrandizement of the colonizer. This may be

done by covert or overt, psychological, legal and military mechanisms. For an

admission of the negative effects of British colonialism see a candid though

rare admission by Jack Straw , a British Foreign Secretary.

See also a review of Braudel, one of the eurocentric apologists of

colonialism. Colonialism inhibited the development of indigenous technology

in Africa to a large extent. Colonial domination brought with it a shift

into a cash crop economy and de-stabilized some of the existing processes of

technical growth. The dumping of goods took place. African markets were

flooded with cheap mass-produced textile, glass and iron products in the

context of policies such as "the scrap iron policy" of Britain. Indigenous

manufacturing capability was deliberately undermined to facilitate European

exports. Captive markets were created. There were deliberate laws aimed at

suppressing African indigenous technological development.

Among the first groups to feel the impact of the invaders'

new laws and activities were the metallurgists. These included the blacksmiths

who forged iron and the whitesmiths who worked with lighter metal such as

tin. Blacksmiths were depended on as much by farmers, for implements, as by

the aristocracy and the political elite. This system of internal self-

reliance changed. It is interesting to note that practitioners of

indigenous medicine were confronted with unjust laws leading to:

Fines; deportation from their native land; imprisonment and execution.

Sadly enough, African medical practitioners who were trained

in the conventional Western bio-medical tradition were discriminated against and

often denied employment. They were excluded from membership from the

white-dominated "West African Medical Staff" made up of British migrants. In

the words of the Legislative Council Proceedings of November 2, 1911:

"It is only of recent that those in the Medical Services have been able to fight out the right to be recognized "

and classed as something above chief clerk."

But these discriminatory laws were not confined to medicine.

In 1909 the Nigerian builder of a model steam ship was threatened with

imprisonment by the British colonial authorities.

See Bala Achi's " Military Technology in Nigeria before 1900."

In Gloria Thomas- Emeagwali. The Historical Development of Science and "

Technology in Nigeria. NY:Lewiston:Edwin Mellen, 1992.

"Colonialism and Science in Africa" in Helaine Selin(ed)."

Encyclopedia on the History of Non-Western Science and Medicine. Kluwer, 1997.

Nurudeen Abubakar. " Metallurgy in

Northern Nigeria: Zamfara Metal Industry in the 19th century."

In Gloria Thomas-Emeagwali(ed). Science and Technology in

African History.Lewiston: NY, Edwin Mellen,1992.

Adell Patton: Physicians, Colonial Racism and Diaspora in West


Dr.Gloria Emeagwali

Professor of History and African Studies, CCSU"