Exploration of Literary Fiction as Historical Source for the Construction of Socio-Cultural History of Railway Workers in Nigeria
Until recently, historical studies on Nigerian railways appear to have omitted their cultural dimensions, particularly as represented in popular songs, music, films, visual arts, fiction and poems. These potential sources for reconstructing the history of railways in Nigeria have not been fully embraced because some historians are of the view that literary and creative materials should not be taken seriously. In contrast to the suspicion some historians have for these materials, this essay explores the potential of using non-traditional historical sources such as creative fiction in examining the socio-cultural history of the lives of Nigerian railway workers during the colonial and post-colonial periods. Employing Cyprian Ekwensi’s Lokotown and Other Stories as the spine of the essay, it explores representations of the complex lives and relationships of railway workers in Nigeria from the 1940s to the 1960s. It argues and demonstrates the point that the representation of past reality in literary and creative media could also be important sources for reconstructing the history of the railways in Nigeria. It concludes that such materials, however, should be employed in conjunction with other sources and that they must be critically evaluated before use.
Keywords: railway, workers, Ekwensi, cities, urbanisation, social life, colonialism, colonial Nigeria