Tracing the Nigerian Civil War in the archives of Heinemann’s African Writers Series

The University of Reading holds the archives of Heinemann’s African Writers Series which had a profound impact on the development of postcolonial African literature. This project will seek to put one aspect of the publisher’s work in context by tracing references to the Nigerian civil war (1967-70) in the archives.

Department: English Literature

Supervised by: Dr Sue Walsh

The Placement Project

The African Writers Series was particularly significant for the development of postcolonial literature in Africa; one reason for this was that Chinua Achebe acted as its editorial adviser and as well as being credited as the father of modern African literature he is also an influence on contemporary writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. When the series was first established in 1962, Nigerian authors were among its most significant contributors, many being from the south-east (including Achebe); but in 1967 civil war broke out when the south-eastern part of Nigeria attempted to secede from the rest of the country. The focus of this project will be to conduct initial research to see where and how the civil war is referenced in the archives pertaining to particular authors who wrote about the war or were based in the south-east. Since Heinemann was in the difficult position of being a British company (Britain supported Nigeria during the war) publishing a significant number of authors from the secessionist side of the conflict whilst trying to maintain its offices in Nigeria, you will also research into where and how the civil war is discussed in the papers of the publishers during this period (1967-70). You will be responsible for writing a blog on your research to be hosted on the Special Collections website, and in collaboration with Dr Walsh, you will write an article supported by an online exhibition of material curated from the archives to be launched in Black History Month, October 2020.


Original research on the African Writers Series in the Heinemann archives: tracing references to, and discussions of, the Nigerian civil war and its impacts both on individuals and on Heinemann’s publishing ventures in Nigeria. Identifying relevant materials within the archives to examine, document, and write about (in blog posts for the Special Collections website) in relation to the issues above. Research on archive materials relating to selected Nigerian authors who wrote about the civil war, and on the uncatalogued papers of Aig Higo, manager of Heinemann Educational Books (Nigeria) from 1965, held at the Special Collections’ stores at Worton Grange. Co-authorship of an online article and co-curation of online exhibition material for the new Special Collections website promoting the AWS archives to be published at the beginning of Black History Month, October 2020. Research for project (50%) Blogging about the research (20%) Co-authorship of article with co-curated exhibition (30%)

Skills, knowledge and experience required

Thoroughness, attention to detail and strong organisational and time-management skills. Willingness and ability to work independently and think critically. An interest in and willingness to undertake original archive research in UoR Special Collections (training will be provided for those who have not undertaken collections based research before). Some interest in postcolonial literature and willingness to learn about Nigerian literature and its contexts. Familiarity with blogging and/or social media is desirable but not essential.

Skills which will be developed during the placement

Communications skills, working with academics, archivists and Special Collections staff. Conducting archival research into a publisher’s archives. Knowledge of history of Heinemann’s African Writers Series and its significance for postcolonial literature and some contextual knowledge about Nigerian civil war. Managing public engagement through blogging, useful curatorial skills (online exhibition) and writing online content.

Place of Work

UoR Reading Room, Special Collections, Museum of English Rural Life, Redlands Road, RG1 5EX

Hours of Work

The prescise dates and hours to be agreed with student (approx 30 hrs per week)

Approximate Start and End Dates (not fixed)

Monday 29 June 2020 - Friday 07 August 2020

How to Apply

The post will be advertised centrally on the UROP website between 24th February and 3rd April 2020. Students should submit a CV with details of two referees and a covering letter stating why you are interested in this specific opportunity directly to the project Supervisor (click on supervisor name at the top of the page for email). Successful candidates will then be invited to interview.

Return to Placements List

Page navigation

Search Form