1.3 The Dr. Ann O’Hear Archive: Autobiographical Memoir
I specialised in African history as an undergraduate (1962‒1965) at the University of Birmingham, UK, where the Centre of West African Studies was established in 1963 by pioneering historian of West Africa J. D. Fage. Following this, I spent two years as a graduate volunteer teacher in what was then the Mid West of Nigeria (1965‒1967), teaching the new West African history syllabus to school certificate level, as well as other subjects. For some time, up to the outbreak of the Nigerian civil war and the invasion of the Mid West, I was acting principal of my school.
I received an MA in African Studies from the Centre of West African Studies, University of Birmingham, UK, in 1969. In 1976, I returned to Nigeria, working as a lecturer in what was then the Kwara State College of Technology, Ilorin, becoming a Principal Lecturer and acting as Head of the History Department from 1980 to 1982. At the same time, I was engaged in studying the economic history of the city of Ilorin and its environs. I spent the year 1983 on study leave, writing up my research, receiving my Ph.D. in History/African Studies in 1984 from the University of Birmingham, where I was one of the last students to be supervised by Professor Fage before his retirement. Building on the research I conducted for my doctorate, I have produced a series of seminar papers, articles, and book chapters on craft industries in the city of Ilorin (production and trade in woven cloth, jasper beads, and pottery), on the city’s intermediary functions, on its agricultural districts, and on the historiography of Ilorin and other parts of Yorubaland. I published a new edition of David Wynford Carnegie’s Letters from Nigeria, 1899‒1900, in 1992.
I left the Kwara State College of Technology in 1985, and spent the following 25 years in the USA, where I became Coordinator of Intercultural Studies at Niagara University and also worked in publishing. As Acquisitions Editor for Humanity Books (an imprint of Prometheus Books), Amherst, NY, I was responsible for the publication of works in the imprint’s Classics in Black Studies series. For about 10 years, I was a co-editor of the journal African Economic History.
I was encouraged to study slavery by Paul E. Lovejoy (now Distinguished Research Professor and Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History, York University, Toronto, Canada). Although I did some work on slavery in the early 1980s and it received some coverage in my doctoral thesis, it was only in the mid-1980s that it became my main field of concentration. In 1988, a U.S. Social Science Research Council grant enabled me to conduct research on slavery in Nigeria and in various archives and repositories (I was later aided by a grant from the American Historical Association). Since that time, I have specialised in research on slavery and other forms of dependency in and around the city of Ilorin. I published a monograph, Power Relations in Nigeria: Ilorin Slaves and Their Successors, in 1997. I have also published numerous articles and chapters on slavery and related subjects and given many seminar papers on these topics. I now live in England, and I have been engaged for some years in settling my various research collections in appropriate repositories and working on further projects.