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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.
By the time of the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in the late nineteenth century, Africa had already been globally connected for many centuries. Its gold had fuelled the economies of Europe and the Islamic world since around 1000 CE, and its sophisticated kingdoms had traded with Europeans along the coasts from Senegal down to Angola since the fifteenth century. Until at least 1650, this was a trade of equals, using a variety of currencies – most importantly shells: the cowrie shells imported from the Maldives, and the nzimbu shells imported from Brazil. Toby Green’s groundbreaking new book transforms our view of West and West-Central Africa. A Fistful of Shells draws not just on written histories, but on archival research in nine countries, on art, praise-singers, oral history, archaeology, letter and the author’s personal experience to create a new perspective on the history of one of the world’s most important regions.
Shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize, Cundill History Prize, Fage and Oliver Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the Pius Adesanmi Memorial Award Winner of the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize for Global Cultural Understanding 2019 'Astonishing, staggering' Ben Okri, Daily Telegraph A groundbreaking history that will transform our view of West Africa By the time of the 'Scramble for Africa' in the late nineteenth century, Africa had already been globally connected for many centuries. Its gold had fuelled the economies of Europe and Islamic world since around 1000, and its sophisticated kingdoms had traded with Europeans along the coasts from Senegal down to Angola since the fifteenth century. Until at least 1650, this was a trade of equals, using a variety of currencies - most importantly shells: the cowrie shells imported from the Maldives, and the nzimbu shells imported from Brazil. Toby Green's groundbreaking new book transforms our view of West and West-Central Africa. It reconstructs the world of kingdoms whose existence (like those of Europe) revolved around warfare, taxation, trade, diplomacy, complex religious beliefs, royal display and extravagance, and the production of art. Over time, the relationship between Africa and Europe revolved ever more around the trade in slaves, damaging Africa's relative political and economic power as the terms of monetary exchange shifted drastically in Europe's favour. In spite of these growing capital imbalances, longstanding contacts ensured remarkable connections between the Age of Revolution in Europe and America and the birth of a revolutionary nineteenth century in Africa. A Fistful of Shells draws not just on written histories, but on archival research in nine countries, on art, praise-singers, oral history, archaeology, letters, and the author's personal experience to create a new perspective on the history of one of the world's most important regions.
A journey across centuries of religious conflict Toby Green's incredible new book brings a vast panorama to life by focusing on the untold stories of individuals from all walks of life and every section of society who were affected by the Inquisition. From witches in Mexico, bigamists in Brazil, Freemasons, Hindus, Jews, Moslems and Protestants, the Inquisition reached every aspect of society. This history, though filled with stories of terror and the unspeakable ways in which human beings can treat one another, is ultimately one of hope, underscoring the resilience of the human spirit. Stretching from the unification of Spain under Ferdinand and Isabella in the fifteenth century to the Napoleanic wars, The Inquisition details this incredible history in all its richness and complexity.
In 1995 Toby Green became friends with El Hadji, a Senegalese photographer who swore that, in the West African hinterland, there were mystics who possessed the secrets of how to become invisible and invulnerable. Four years later, he returns to meet up with his old friend, and test the strengths of these surreal claims for himself. 'By turns mysterious, hilarious, beautiful and troubling, this book brings to light the disturbing links between the seeds of racism and the nature of contemporary culture. An excellent and thought-provoking book.' Global Adventure 'Green is a brave and intrepid traveller ... West Africa tests his resolve to the limit, presenting some of the toughest travelling conditions to be found anywhere in the world.' Sunday Times
165 years after Charles Darwin embarked on the journey which produced the most radical theory of modern times, Toby Green set out to retrace his footsteps on horseback. Green's epic journey involved close encounters with landslides, sinking mud, and pit vipers. Saddled with Darwin is a vivid account of the evolutionary changes which have convulsed South America since Darwin's time and an incisive portrait of change across a continent. 'A very good read indeed. His epic journey takes him through wild and wonderful scenery, his style is clear and unaffected, he brings to life the people he meets and he treats the whole gruelling adventure with unquenchable enthusiasm. A pleasure.' Michael Palin 'Funny, reudite, courageous and highly eccentric.' Eric Newby