Toby Green reclaims West Africa’s place in this history: The peoples of the region overthrew aristocracies that had emerged to prey on them. This is another warning perhaps to the 21st century autocratic states, often underpinned by oil or other commodity revenue flows, that Jakkie Cilliers examines.
In Africa First! Igniting a Growth Revolution, Jakkie Cilliers makes the convincing case that Africa’s current low-growth trajectory need not define its future. In A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution, published in 2019, historian Toby Green unearths some of the roots of Africa’s current problems, while restoring the continent’s rightful place in global economic history. This reviewer found both books stimulating, especially when read one after the other, with the insights of one feeding off the other.
Green, a historian at King’s College London, connects pre-colonial West and Central African history to wider global trends as a robust rebuttal to the notion that “Africa has no history”, or had an economic history rooted in barter – notions which still have surprising currency.
Speaking of currency, Green anchors much of this superb study in patterns of trade and foreign exchange between West…