History and Culture of Niger Republic. Several precolonial empires had an impact on Niger, including the Songhai to the west and the Bornu Empire to the east as well as the Fulani Empire of Sokoto. In the nineteenth century, the first European explorers came to the area, searching for the mouth of the Niger River. Niger History and Culture Information and Travel Guide. Vacation package Book. Although French efforts at subjugation began before 1900, dissident ethnic groups, especially the Tuareg, were not conquered until the early twentieth century. The new colony was considered lacking in resources, and no paved roads or railroads were built between 1922 and 1944. No efforts were made to encourage river transportation, and the literacy rate remained among the lowest in Africa. Higher education opportunities were limited. The French constitution of 1946 permitted Niger to elect a representative to the French National Assembly and provided for decentralization of power and limited participation in political life for local advisory assemblies. The law of 23 June 1956 gave Niger's politicians more of a voice in the management of their country by establishing a government council presided over by the governor. In addition to removing voting inequalities, these laws provided for the creation of governmental organs, giving individual territories a high degree of self-government. After the establishment of the Fifth French Republic in 1958, Niger became an autonomous state. Two years later, a new constitution adopted by referendum permitted the creation of a republic (18 December 1958). Independence was proclaimed on 3 August 1960.