Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

Nation on Board
Becoming Nigerian at Sea

By Lynn Schler

”Highly organized and well written, Lynn Schler’s Nation on Board is an important addition to the fields of maritime history, labor history, business history, and the history of decolonization.“

H-Net Reviews

“This is an outstanding piece of social historical research and a significant addition to Nigerian labour and industrial/business history. Schler has made excellent use of a range of archives and interviews and crafted an attractively written book that will be accessible to a range of readers. I take my hat off to her.”

Peter Waterman, advisor, Global Labour Journal

“Schler places the sometimes abstract notion of nationhood into a fresh and dynamic context, and the testimony she presents provides wonderful insights into the textures of life aboard ship and in foreign ports

Douglas Anthony, Franklin and Marshall College

In the 1940s, British shipping companies began the large-scale recruitment of African seamen in Lagos. On colonial ships, Nigerian sailors performed menial tasks for low wages and endured discrimination as cheap labor, while countering hardships by nurturing social connections across the black diaspora. Poor employment conditions stirred these seamen to identify with the nationalist sentiment burgeoning in postwar Nigeria, while their travels broadened and invigorated their cultural identities.

Working for the Nigerian National Shipping Line, they encountered new forms of injustice and exploitation. When mismanagement, a lack of technical expertise, and pillaging by elites led to the NNSL’s collapse in the early 1990s, seamen found themselves without prospects. Their disillusionment became a broader critique of corruption in postcolonial Nigeria.

In Nation on Board: Becoming Nigerian at Sea, Lynn Schler traces the fate of these seamen in the transition from colonialism to independence. In so doing, she renews the case for labor history as a lens for understanding decolonization, and brings a vital transnational perspective to her subject. By placing the working-class experience at the fore, she complicates the dominant view of the decolonization process in Nigeria and elsewhere.

Lynn Schler is a senior lecturer in African history in the Department of Politics and Government, and the director of the Tamar Golan Africa Centre, at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.   More info →


“My first encounter with Nigerian seamen was in the stories I heard and collected in Douala, Cameroon, in the late 1990s. I was in this West African port city to research and interview residents about the social and cultural history of the colonial era, and several of the testimonies and remi- niscences that I gathered made reference to the African seamen who passed through Douala while employed on colonial ships. Women in particular described the spectacle of the eye-catching seamen in their bright white uniforms as they crossed the city from the port to the bars and brothels of the popular quarters. These seamen inspired admiration among the local resi- dents, but the former beer brewers and prostitutes of Douala also remem- bered the seamen as a raucous bunch of troublemakers. The larger-than-life portrayals and stories of these African seafarers stuck with me, and ultimately inspired the research that led to the writing of this book.…”
— Table of Contents and Introduction


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Retail price: $34.95, S.
Release date: May 2016
8 illus. · 264 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World


Release date: May 2016
8 illus. · 264 pages
Rights:  World

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