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A Fistful of Shells
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About the Author

Toby Green has worked widely with academics, musicians and writers across Africa, organising events in collaboration with institutions in Angola, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique Sierra Leone and the Gambia. He has written a number of previous books, and his work has been translated into twelve languages. Awarded a 2017 Philip Leverhulme Prize in History, he is Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King's College London. His 2019 book A Fistful of Shells won the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for global cultural understanding and was shortlisted for the Cundill History Prize and the inaugural Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award.

Reviews

A Fistful of Shells is the fruit of research conducted in the archives of nine nations and required the author to undertake fieldwork across eight West African states. It shows. [...] This is a stunning work of research and argumentation. It has the potential to become a landmark in our understanding of the most misunderstood of continents. -- David Olusoga * New Statesman *
Toby Green's A Fistful of Shells uses a global archive - in Africa, the Americas and Europe - to explore the complex, flourishing and connected economy of West Africa existing long before a European capitalist system established itself on the continent. Extraordinarily written and researched, the book paints a huge, complex canvas, filled with individual detail. -- Julia Lovell * Observer Books of the Year 2019 *
A multifaceted history of West Africa which turns many old assumptions on their heads. Green utterly demolishes the tired Western view that Africa had no history before the arrival of the Europeans, and that they naively ceded power in the region to the newcomers by exchanging valuable goods for baubles. A magisterial, extensive and fresh account of the history of West Africa that rewrites the region and its peoples back into World History, where they belong. * Miranda Kaufmann, Author of BLACK TUDORS *
Toby Green's book restores the rich African history which she had been denied for too long. Here the author reveals that Africa was never at the margins of global commerce but was in fact a decisive player with the prowess to negotiate and also the goods - ivory, gum, gold - to supply. -- Hassoum Ceesay, National Museum, The Gambia
Toby Green's transformative book repositions West African history in an entirely new light. It brings into focus the region's fundamental place in shaping the modern world as well as the powerful and also difficult legacy of this today. -- Paul Reid, Director, Black Cultural Archives
Very seldom do I pick up a history book and wish I had written it myself. Toby Green's A Fistful of Shells is one such book. Brilliantly conceptualized, beautifully written, it breaks with colonially configured regional boundaries - which work to re-create unintended silos of knowledge - to imagine a West and West Central African Atlantic history of money, power, religion, and inequality that is as rich as it is sound. * Professor Nwando Achebe, Michigan State University *
A Fistful of Shells is exemplary: scholarly, sensitive, enlightening and often vivid. The author does much more than make Africa seem normal. He proclaims a daunting ambition: to explore the local and global implications of West Africa's economies during the age of slavery. He succeeds. -- Felipe Fernandez-Armesto * Wall Street Journal *
A Fistful of Shells is the fruit of research conducted in the archives of nine nations and required the author to undertake fieldwork across eight West African states. It shows. [...] This is a stunning work of research and argumentation. It has the potential to become a landmark in our understanding of the most misunderstood of continents. -- David Olusoga * New Statesman *
Toby Green's A Fistful of Shells uses a global archive - in Africa, the Americas and Europe - to explore the complex, flourishing and connected economy of West Africa existing long before a European capitalist system established itself on the continent. Extraordinarily written and researched, the book paints a huge, complex canvas, filled with individual detail. -- Julia Lovell, Observer Books of the Year 2019
A multifaceted history of West Africa which turns many old assumptions on their heads. Green utterly demolishes the tired Western view that Africa had no history before the arrival of the Europeans, and that they naively ceded power in the region to the newcomers by exchanging valuable goods for baubles. A magisterial, extensive and fresh account of the history of West Africa that rewrites the region and its peoples back into World History, where they belong. -- Miranda Kaufmann * Author of BLACK TUDORS *
Toby Green's book restores the rich African history which she had been denied for too long. Here the author reveals that Africa was never at the margins of global commerce but was in fact a decisive player with the prowess to negotiate and also the goods - ivory, gum, gold - to supply. -- Hassoum Ceesay * National Museum, The Gambia *
Toby Green's transformative book repositions West African history in an entirely new light. It brings into focus the region's fundamental place in shaping the modern world as well as the powerful and also difficult legacy of this today. -- Paul Reid * Director, Black Cultural Archives *
Very seldom do I pick up a history book and wish I had written it myself. Toby Green's A Fistful of Shells is one such book. Brilliantly conceptualized, beautifully written, Fistful of Shells breaks with colonially configured regional boundaries-which work to re-create unintended silos of knowledge-to imagine a West and West Central African Atlantic history of money, power, religion, and inequality that is as rich as it is sound. -- Professor Nwando Achebe, Michigan State University
An epic journey and an astonishing tale -- W.G. Sebald * on Toby Green's SADDLED WITH DARWIN: A Journey through South America *

Very beautifully, very movingly written... by someone who knows Africa

-- Ryszard Kapuscinski * on Toby Green's MEETING THE INVISIBLE MAN: Secrets and Magic in West Africa *

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