Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


African Studies Seminar: A Fistful of Shells

23 May 2019, 12:30 pm–2:00 pm

fistful of shells

The UCL African Studies Seminar welcomes Toby Green (King’s College London) for the first seminar of this summer term: ‘A Fistful of Shells: Economic Histories and Inequality in Africa's longue duree’. Discussant: Paul Lovejoy (York University, Toronto). Seminars will take place some Thursdays this term.

This event is free.

Event Information

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Hélène Neveu Kringelbach


IAS Forum
Ground floor, South Wing, UCL
United Kingdom

This paper explores the economic argument of Toby Green's new book, A Fistful of Shells, which looks at the history of currencies and Africa's global economic position as a way of understanding wider capital differentials between Africa and other world regions in the early modern era. Green argues that whereas economic historians focus on data since 1800, looking at the earlier period provides a fundamental new reading of the causes and consequences of Africa's relative economic disempowerment on the eve of colonialism.


Toby Green is Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King's College London. He is the author of A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (2019; Allen Lane/Chicago University Press) and The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300-1589 (2012; Cambridge University Press).

Paul Lovejoy is Canada Research Chair in African Diaspora History,
Distinguished Research Professor at York University. He is the author of dozens of books, including Transformations in Slavery and, most recently, Jihad in West Africa During the Age of Revolutions.

Download the Summer 2019 programme here

All welcome.

This seminar series is convened by the African Studies Research Centre/IAS: