Physical setting

The story “The Headstrong Historian” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie takes place in a village in Southern Nigeria. The Oyi stream is mentioned, which is a river in Nigeria as well as a Local Government Area in the Anambra State, located in South-western Nigeria. Other places are also mentioned: the town of Onicha, Ibadan, which is one of the largest towns in Nigeria, and Lagos, which is the largest city in Nigeria. 

The story spans many years. It starts at the end of the 1800s – as it is mentioned that the Holy Ghost Congregation had arrived in Nigeria in 1885 – and mentions events as far as the 1970s and beyond. There are several specific dates, such as 1953, when Grace changes her degree from chemistry to history, or 1972, when she divorces her husband. Nwamgba’s death occurs in “a strange year, the year that darkness suddenly descended on the land in the middle of the afternoon”. This could be a reference to the total solar eclipse from the 20th of May 1947, which was visible in Nigeria, meaning that Nwamgba dies in 1947, the same year that Grace starts attending secondary school.

Some places, such as the Oyi stream, offer an insight into Nwamgba’s traditions and beliefs:

The waters...

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