The people of Old Calabar are found in Cross-River State of Nigeria. They were originally called Akwa Akpa by the Efik people till the coming of Europeans, who first pronounced it as Calabar or calabash.
The major towns and groups that made old Calabar included: Duke Town, Creek Town, Henshaw Town, Efik, Akum, Ikot Ansa, Ikot Ishie, Kasuk, Ikom Omin and Obutong.
Old Calabar has been a major seaport in Nigeria since the 16th century. It was popular during the trans-Atlantic slave trade. It retained its prominence during the period of legitimate trade in palm oil, palm kernel and European manufactured goods.
The people of old Calabar witnessed early Christian missionary activities especially in Creek Town and Duke Town. This had an impact on their socio-political activities. Old Calabar had three major kingdoms, namely, the Qua kingdom of Ejagham also called Ekoi, the Efut and the Efik kingdoms. The Obong of Calabar is the highest traditional authority in Calabar. There is the Ekpe secret society as a very important institution.
The Ekpe secret society was the executive authority in old Calabar. Every rich freeborn Efik was entitled to be a member of Efik secret society. Membership comprised initiated elders and male citizens. There were about five to twenty different grades in the Ekpe society. Wealth and social status determined membership to grades in the Ekpe society. Ekpe held political, social and economic authority in Calabar. It also made laws that were recognized by the Europeans. By bringing the wealthy and influential together, Ekpe succeeded in preventing crisis and establishing peace and stability in the community.
The political authority of the Ekpe and the Obong of Calabar were weakened by the British, following the declaration of the area as a protectorate in 1885.