Gender and Marriage: An Exploration of Changes in Marital Relations in Southwestern Nigeria, 1914-1960


Dr. Morenikeji Asaaju

Research Area:


The main focus of this research is to explore the changes and continuity in the marriage systems of South-Western Nigeria focusing on two periods: pre-colonial (19th century) and colonial. For the pre-colonial period the research will contrast the marriage as practised by the different social strata, groups and towns with a view to exposing their mild differences. For the colonial period it will examine the different types of marriage practised by different social entities e.g. among Christians as well as Muslims in different areas, including the perspectives of important or influential individuals such as community leaders.

From about the nineteenth century, many towns in South-western Nigeria were developing. Abeokuta, for instance, became an important centre for the production of ‘Adire textile’ an indigo dyed cloth. These developments, together with early culture contact with missionaries led to significant economic, political and social changes. This research will analyse how these changes, e.g. the introduction of Western education, helped to further divide or newly produce social groupings in different towns and also affected their understandings and practices of marriage. The research is also interested in interrogating wider discourses of feminist historiography that focus only on the plight of women, but wants to examine changes in marriage also as a result of the agency of women. For generating primary data, I will rely on research interviews, personal diaries, archival material and court records.