A History of the Yoruba People – Adebanji Akintoye


I like this book because I found it cites archeological sources for topics I’ve used it to research. Meaning, it goes further than just documenting our oral history, it links oral with physical archeological evidence  . The author’s religious bias if any is not discernible which is great too.

I’ve not read it cover to cover , I read topic by topic as I need it. Kindle is useful because you can search on a word or phrase and be directed to all the relevant chapters. It’s all you need really.





“Professor S. A. Akintoye links the Yoruba past with the present, broadening and transcending Samuel Johnson in scope and time, and reviving both the passion and agenda that are over a century old, to reveal the long history and definable identity of a people and an ethnicity, one of the most important in Africa and the African Diaspora. Here is an accessible book, with the promise of being ageless, written by the only person who has sustained an academic interest in this subject for nearly half a century, providing the treasures of accumulated knowledge, robust encounters with received wisdom, and mature judgement about the future.” – Toyin Falola, The Frances Higginbotham Nalle Professor in History, University of Texas at Austin.



The History of the Yorubas -Samuel Johnson


This is one is an old favourite for many people though it’s been said to be heavily flawed in many of its claims including fundamentally, the origin of the Yorubas,   due to the author’s Christian bias. It is a favourite because it was one of the first, if not the actual first book written by a Yoruba man on Yoruba history.  It was published after the death of the author by his brother who managed to piece Samuel Johnson’s notes together and send to publishers. The original manuscript had been lost by publishers the author sent it to. It is available in the public domain for free download, and also on Amazon as a hard copy. I like this book for the fact that it was written by a man who lived in some of the tumultuous times of Yoruba history, and who had been personally affected by the wars, his own father having been enslaved, then liberated.


Download a free PDF copy below:



Or purchase from Amazon :

Johnson, Samuel (1846-1901)

Yoruba minister, diplomat, and historian

Johnson was born in Hastings, Sierra Leone. His father was Henry Johnson [Sr.], a liberated African descended from the former king of Oyo in Yorubaland; his eldest brother was Henry Johnson [Jr.]. When Samuel was ten years old, David Hinderer recruited his father for Yorubaland as his assistant in Ibadan. Samuel attended the Hinderer’s school, and then the Abeokuta Training Institution. In 1865 he became schoolmaster at Aremo, Ibadan, and catechist there in 1876, taking increasing responsibility in the frequent prolonged absence of missionary staff. He also traveled to keep contact with the scattered Christians beyond Ibadan.

During the Yoruba Wars (1877-1893), he became an emissary, trusted on all sides, between the Ibadan chiefs, the king of Oyo, and the British. During a visit from the bishop of Sierra Leone in 1886, he was ordained deacon and priest and, after a brief period at Ondo, in 1887 became pastor at Oyo. There he remained until his untimely death.

In Oyo, Johnson had access to rich sources of Yoruba tradition. By 1897 he had completed the remarkable History of the Yorubas, an account of Yoruba culture and tradition down to his own day. The work made excellent use of oral sources and of his own experiences. The Church Missionary Society would not publish the manuscript but passed it to another publisher, who lost it. Johnson thus died without seeing the work in print. His younger brother Obadiah, a Lagos medical doctor, rewrote the book from his papers, and after many vicissitudes (the second manuscript was sent to England on a ship that was captured during World War I) it was published, with a dedication to Hinderer’s memory, in 1921. It has often been reprinted.

Johnson says that he wrote from patriotic motives; educated Yoruba knew the history of Britain, Greece, and Rome, but not of their own country. He envisaged an originally unitary Yoruba state, of which Oyo and Ife were respectively the political and cultural pillars, and saw Christianity as crowning, not as overturning, Yoruba history. His book is a monument to the scholarship and cultural sensitivity to be found among Christian West Africans of his generation.

Andrew F. Walls, “Johnson, Samuel,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, ed. Gerald H. Anderson (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998), 337.

This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan  USA, copyright © 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of Macmillan Reference USA, New York, NY. All rights reserved.



Similar Articles

Say what you feel

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.