Achebe and Friends at Umuahia

Achebe and Friends at Umuahia

The Making of a Literary Elite

Terri Ochiagha

Personal eBook

James Currey




The author meticulously contextualises the experiences of Achebe and his peers as students at Government College Umuahia and argues for a re-assessment of this influential group of Nigerian writers in relation to the literary culture fostered by the school and its tutors.
This is the first in-depth scholarly study of the literary awakening of the young intellectuals who became known as Nigeria's "first-generation" writers in the post-colonial period. Terri Ochiagha's research focuses on Chinua Achebe, Elechi Amadi, Chike Momah, Christopher Okigbo and Chukwuemeka Ike, and also discusses the experiences of Gabriel Okara, Ken Saro-Wiwa and I.C. Aniebo, in the context of their education in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s at Government College, Umuahia. The author provides fresh perspectives on Postcolonial and World literary processes, colonial education in British Africa, literary representations of colonialism and Chinua Achebe's seminal position in African literature. She demonstrates how each of the writers used this very particular education to shape their own visions of the world in which they operated and examines the implications that this had for African literature as a whole.

Supplementary material is available online of some of the original sources. See:

Terri Ochiagha holds one of the prestigious British Academy Newton International Fellowships (2014-16) hosted by the School of English, University of Sussex. She was previously a Senior Associate Member of St Antony's College, University of Oxford.


10 black and white, 1 line illustrations
216 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
African Articulations
Personal eBook, 9781782045182, April 2015
Hardback, 9781847011091, April 2015
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC LIT004010, HIS001050, EDU016000
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Umuahian Connection - Terri Ochiagha
Laying the Foundation: The Fisher Days, 1929-1939
"The Eton of the East": William Simpson and the Umuahian Renaissance
Studying the Humanities at Government College, Umuahia
Young Political Renegades: Nationalist Undercurrents at Government College, Umuahia, 1944-1945
"Something New in Ourselves": First Literary Aspirations
The Dangerous Potency of the Crossroads: Colonial Mimicry in Ike, Momah & Okigbo's Reimaginings of the Primus Inter Pares Years
An Uncertain Legacy: I.N.C. Aniebo and Ken Saro-Wiwa in the Umuahia of the 1950s
The Will to Shine as One: Affiliation and Friendship beyond the College Walls


Offers compelling insights into the development of Nigeria's most celebrated writers, and provides a much-needed account of how their education at Umuahia contributed to their success. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

Proof that that education has the power to change the world can be found in the story told in this groundbreaking book. TIMES EDUCATIONAL SUPPLEMENT

Groundbreaking on many fronts. Not only is it "the first in-depth scholarly study of the literary awakening of the young intellectuals who became known as Nigeria's 'first-generation' writers in the post-colonial period"; it also, subtly, proposes a new framework for receiving and interrogating the works of said writers. TORCH

A major study....this book is a new perspective on British colonial education in Nigeria and the development of Nigeria's modern literature, especially in the way the writers' visions were shaped to re-inscribe African literature. AFRICA BOOK LINK

Focusing on the emergence of an African elite at Government College Umuahia and their turn to literature as a mode of self-expression, Terri Ochiagha's Achebe and Friends answers one of the outstanding questions in African literary history: Why did the most important group of pioneer writers emerge from one institution in Eastern Nigeria in the last decades of colonial rule? Ochiagha combines the archival skills of a cultural historian with the sensibilities of a literary critic to produce perhaps one of the most important commentaries on African literature in recent years. This is a remarkable book on the origins of African literature and an unmatched model of how to do the literary history of the postcolonial world. SIMON GIKANDI, Robert Schirmer Professor of English, Princeton University

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