A Fistful of Shells West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution

A Fistful of Shells West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution❰Read❯ ➳ A Fistful of Shells West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution Author Toby Green – Bluevapours.co.uk By the time the “Scramble for Africa” among European colonial powers began in the late nineteenth century Africa had already been globally connected for centuries Its gold had fueled the economies By the time of Shells Kindle ´ the “Scramble for Africa” among European colonial powers began in the late nineteenth century Africa had already been globally connected for centuries Its gold had fueled the economies of Europe and the Islamic world for nearly a millennium and the sophisticated kingdoms spanning its west coast had traded with Europeans since the fifteenth century A Fistful eBook ✓ Until at least this was a trade of euals using a variety of currencies—most importantly cowrie shells imported from the Maldives and nzimbu shells imported from Brazil But as the slave trade grew African kingdoms began to lose prominence in the growing global economy We have been living with the effects of this shift ever since  With Fistful of Shells ePUB ´ A Fistful of Shells Toby Green transforms Fistful of Shells West Africa Kindle - our view of West and West Central Africa by reconstructing the world of these kingdoms which revolved around trade diplomacy complex religious beliefs and the production of art Green shows how the slave trade led to economic disparities that caused African kingdoms to lose relative political and economic power The concentration Fistful of Shells West Africa Kindle - of money in the hands of Atlantic elites in and outside these kingdoms brought about a revolutionary nineteenth century in Africa parallel to the upheavals then taking place in Europe and America Yet political fragmentation following the fall of African aristocracies produced radically different results as European colonization took hold Drawing not just on written histories but on archival research in nine countries art oral history archaeology and letters Green lays bare the transformations that have shaped world politics and the global economy since the fifteenth century and paints a new and masterful portrait of West Africa past and present.

Toby Green is of Shells Kindle ´ the author of five previous works of non fiction and his work has been translated into ten languages He teaches the history and culture of Portuguese speaking Africa at King’s College London.

A Fistful of Shells West Africa from the Rise of the Slave
  • Hardcover
  • 640 pages
  • A Fistful of Shells West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution
  • Toby Green
  • English
  • 06 October 2015
  • 9780226644578

10 thoughts on “A Fistful of Shells West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution

  1. Becki Iverson says:

    This is the best single history of any part of Africa I've ever read and should honestly be taught in all schools I picked it up because my knowledge of African history and cultures is so severely lacking the only region we ever learned about in school was Egypt and even that was almost remedial and I needed to have a well rounded understanding of the world This was the perfect book to pick up It's impeccably sourced and researched but remains uite readable and includes lots of maps charts and photos to help visualize the information The author provides highly nuanced approaches towards gender history and politics the true impact of colonialism and religious influence and embraces a complexity that dazzled me I wish history books were this thorough and honest; there is no cover up or one sided perspective here The insistence on depth enriches every chapter and leave you with a full 360 degree view of life in West Africa in the period of transition around the 18th century I haven't read a book this deep in uite some time and it took a long time to finish but it was immensely worth the effort Toby Green's approach to history by using currency to explain how slavery started and true impact it had in this region and globally is a brilliant idea and I think this information should be taught in all American classrooms as a mandatory part of understanding why chattel slavery was different and how deeply it robbed an entire continent of its potential If I could give this than 5 stars I would Highly highly recommend

  2. Bart says:

    This is a history of West Africa that is centered around the main theme that the involvement of the continent into global trade did not lead to economic prosperity but instead to deep cultural change and upheaval Much of the argument is related to the point that African exports including mainly slave labour and gold could be used for accumulation and hence the creation of new wealth by their importers while African imports cowries cloth iron provided much less opportunities to do that Green is not an economist and the book suffers from this although he himself would see this very much differently In his view economists are all disciples of Adam Smith believing that trade benefits all involved While I agree that African history speaks against such a view it is also true that many economists would not be surprised by this The Latin American structuralist tradition as well as related Marxist views for example makes very much the same point about the continent of South America which ironically was a main trading partner of West Africa Eually based in historial analysis its main point is that the terms of trade has moved against Latin American exporters leading to uneven development This is obviously much related to Green's point about Africa but he seems to be unaware of this Green seems to fit much better in a sociological view of history which leads to a thematic rather than geographical or time linear approach to the subject This may well be suit those who are well aware of West African history but it makes this volume especially Part 2 utterly unsuitable as an introduction to the subject I am reading Fage's introductory history of West Africa a somewhat dated but conseuently much well organized approach on the side of this book and this is what I would recommend to all who are looking for a comfortable way into African history

  3. Zidane says:

    The best overall history of West Africa I've ever read It is rich in the what and the how and references great archival material to give an account that has been rarely given Great Why 3 stars? well because he delves into the murky waters of explaining why the history played out as it did finding causal links where none exist and coming off as trying to convince you of something he already believes; that the tragedies that occurred there between 1300 and 1800 have way say on the realities of W Africa today than any other factors Read it for the what and the how ignore the why

  4. Haley McNamera says:

    I didn’t realize this book would be so focused on currency and trade If someone is particularly fascinated by those topics they may like this book than I didbut I can’t believe this book has so many raving reviews

  5. Matthew Warchal says:

    Superb economic history This is what history is supposed to be like This is an incredibly dense work so I'll only highlight a few things that interested me This isn't my first slavery or African history for sure but there were uniue perspectives that aligned with my instincts on the subject It corrects the false narratives that African history stopped with European slavery chattel or that its sub Saharan people were passive barbarians who were either victimized or uplifted by European colonization As not every European nation engaged in the slave trade like most of Central and all of Eastern Europe Europeans are referred to here generally instead of the main powers involved Spanish Portuguese Dutch English and French Instead Europeans were mostly powerless outsiders until the 19th century subjects of local rulers if they wanted to trade acuire supplies to travel and survive in a hostile tropical climate and to get slave labor for their growing empires Instead of grand unhistorical motivations for white Europeans based simply on skin color instead they arrived first and foremost interested in gold because of their lack of metal and wealth They were fueled by glorious tales that were true about the region during the Middle Ages especially geopolitics concerning the trans Saharan money flow to their arch enemy the Ottoman Empire which was enriched with gold and slave manpower by places like the Kingdom of Mali and later Songhai Ottoman pressure drove the Portuguese to find wealth around the periphery of the Turks yet they still utilized North African information about slavery transmitted through Spain and Morocco as they expanded around the world So Europeans were trade guests in West Africa until the 18 19th centuries draining humanity from the area with mostly willing trade partners Africans were active participants in a global economy where longstanding domestic nonracial slavery spiraled out of control then mixed with mostly Spanish racial blood categorizations later the English Barbados Code as they tried to distinguish themselves from their chattel that they often intermixed with What local leaders valued put them at a disadvantage in comparison with the Europeans which grew as the Europeans industrialized and formalized their colonial grip on much of the world in the 19th century That is why some of the richest places in the world of the past like the nation of Mali are now some of the world's poorest As guests of the multitude of kingdoms like Benin Europeans slowly gained advantage in trade based on cultural differences of what was valued gold supplies and slaves versus bronze non African alcohol weapons and cowry shells a global currency accepted from the Americas Africa to China Powerful African leaders valued many different things but primarily weapons to defeat their enemies and most importantly to provide humans to sell Initially most enslaved persons were criminals war captives or internal enemies of the king until that system could no longer meet the demand leading to larger wars among African kingdoms treating with European enemies of the prevailing power to gain advantage choosing Dutch or English allies over the Portuguese or resisting when their own subjects were threatened with enslavement Kongo Toby Green makes it clear that Europeans had little chance in enslaving Africans without the expressed permission of kingdoms like Benin or the Ashante Empire Maroon community is a fascinating concept as the escaped enslaved persons transferred everything from religion Islam spirit worship and witch women found in South America for example to music to a warrior lifestyle transferred from W Africa to Haiti by slaves who used jungle warfare techniues during the Haitian Revolution They were forcibly taken brutally forced to suffer the horrific Middle Passage and spread throughout the world That doesn't mean they lost their identity Finally Islam and Christianity had complex relationships with the region but the latter was much less accessible because of European involvement in slavery There are many instances throughout history where the religion of trade becomes the religion of rulers Buddhism in East Asia Hinduism in South East Asia etc Islam arrived first and mostly avoided harsh oppression of native religious practices like animal worship Snake temples in Dahomey were so influential that chieftains wouldn't dare etc Some rulers tried to impose Islam and usually it didn't go over very well The status uo returned to indigenous religions either remaining distinct or morphing with the outside ones like the independent African Christian bishops Other kings chose Christianity and even adopted Portuguese culture like in the Kong Kingdom However it was very interesting that there was a renewed acceptance of Islam as a religion with jihad struggle and how some adopted the religion in order to resist a greater European presence in the 19th century It took hundreds of years of European slavery for Islam to make inroads in many of the most stubborn regions of West Africa An interesting tidbit that I can't place anywhere else is that ineffective Oyo kings past their prime were strangled to death by their wives as a form of regime change Generally women in West Africa were powerful than in much of the world at the time of this work 15th 19th centuries Until the increased spread of Islam and Christianity into the jungle regions of West Africa women were often the source for lineage and control over clans In Oyo and later Dahomey they were apparently an institutionalized system of murder for weak leaders

  6. Slowjammer says:

    Unbearable Crazy structure which leads to repetion after repetition after repetition and info going all over the place through geographies time cultures and everything else I am just not smart enough to follow Author's tone becomes tedious over time and one really wonders how objective his 'facts' are considering his strong personal biasesIt's a shame because I would have loved to learn about the region's history

  7. Domhnall says:

    Toby Green offers an analytical history of Western Africa from 1000 CE to the mid 19th century the pre colonial era though mostly focused on the latter three centuries This is an immense region between modern day Angola and Senegal within which a great diversity of states has contributed to a complex story of trade warfare and cultural exchange From the outset the region has been connected with networks of trade and exchange to the North and East primarily with the Islamic world of North Africa but through that to India and Europe Over time alternative trade networks developed using Atlantic shipping routes to provide direct links with Europe and the Americas The African states were not restricted to primitive systems of barter as often suggested but took a full and active part in commercial trading through the medium of a range of different types of currency including gold shells cloth nuts and others all serving their function effectively alongside well developed systems of commercial credit African states were caught up in changes and developments not dissimilar to those in Europe and Islamic states bearing in mind that in the early part of this history Europe was convulsed by its own religious wars and progression from feudalism to the evolution of early modern states Engaging in trade enabled African rulers to secure growing tax revenues from which to fund the administrative and military basis for stable and growing states while increased access to currency supported growth in their domestic economies to serve new types of demand such as provisions for the Atlantic shipping Africa like Europe was adapting to climate change in the period of the Little Ice Age leading to diversification of crops and adopting new foods often introduced from America Trade introduced Africans to new technologies especially for military use; Europeans were keen to supply new weapons including guns and gunpowder though excellent swords and later muskets were also manufactured by Africans Over time trade also exposed African producers to intensifying competition and indeed dumping of Europe’s over production in important markets especially textiles ruining some African industries and forcing change in others Trade was especially important to Africa’s emerging elites providing the impetus and the resources to support a warrior aristocracy increasingly remote from and oppressive towards the general population This process was vastly intensified by the trade in captive humans across the Atlantic which many African rulers became increasingly dependent upon as demand fell for other African products in the face of European competition while the demand for commercial products of farms and plantations within Africa cotton palm oil nuts was to create a comparable local demand for captive labour which was met by continuous warfare and raiding between neighbouring states By the mid 18th Century extreme social divisions were leading to revolutionary movements from below not dissimilar to events in Europe and the Americas and in large swathes of Western Africa people regarded conversion to Islam and religious reforms within Islam as a viable path to liberation though the results in the pre colonial era of the 19th Century were not radically dissimilar to the preceding arrangements The model for precolonial West African states is summed up by Green in one word – predatory – and this in turn has influenced attitudes and values in the post colonial era both among elites and among the people Despite participating energetically in a global trading network and in the process of modernisation West African states were at an increasing disadvantage compared to the European experience and the key differences identified by Toby Green arise from the characteristics of European capitalism In very simple terms capitalism engages in production – whether agricultural or manufacturing – and trade as a path to ongoing capital accumulation whereas other traditions have effectively consumed the wealth created The same contrast has been made between the Spanish and French states of the 16th and 17th centuries whose aristocracies and monarchies wasted the wealth of their economies for displays of extravagance and for wars of religion or just succession and the “prudent” behaviour of Dutch or English capitalists who encouraged trade and 'improvement' as a path to create new wealth The outcome was to establish profound ineuality in the terms of trade between West Africans and Europeans in particular That structural ineuality persists today both in terms of global trade and local social and political structures continually changing in its specific manifestations but nonetheless reflecting many common features with the history described in this book This is a book in which Africans are given a full active part to play in their own history as agents and participants not simply as silent victims There are many indications too of substantial ways in which Africans have shaped developments across the Americas and continue to participate in a transatlantic cultural network The Atlantic slave trade is hugely important throughout but it is not by any means the only theme or even the most important one

  8. Zulu Fox says:

    It's been a while since a book significantly changed the way I think about either a region of the world or an entire epoch of world history and this book did both Aside from providing an extremely convincing and well argued thesis about the causes of the economic divergence between West Africa and Europe that I won't try to summarize here the author does a great job of re centering West Africa in the last millennium of world history and exploding Hegel's widely subscribed notion that Africa has no history You absolutely do not have to have an especially strong interest in the particulars of West African history to get a lot out of this book An interest in any of the following will do What are the historic origins of African 'underdevelopment'? How did African states change during this era and how were these changes connected to early globalization? What are the implications of one of the findings of this book that broadly analogous historical processes took place simultaneously in Africa Europe and the Americas at this time especially during the age of revolution? On my reading one conclusion is that these histories did not somehow evolve separately until the rise of colonialism in the nineteenth century but rather always grew togetherEconomics aside the book's initial focus on the centuries prior to and during the early stages of the growth of the Atlantic slave trade are actually surprisingly interesting and thought provoking For example depictions of medieval Europe being influenced in a big way by changes in West Africa vignettes of all the many ambassadors stationed at European courts and Brazil by African kingdoms starting in the 15th century and the narration of Kongo as a significant diplomatic player in European affairs in the 17th century among other things really changed the way I think about pre colonial Euro African relationsOne minor fault in Part 2 of the book while there's nothing wrong with the thematic focusorganization of the chapters as opposed to geographic as in Part 1 I did find that the narrative got a bit convoluted and lost among a deluge of rapidly changing people places and times sometimes all within a single page Judging by the amount of notes and underlines I made I was considerably less engaged with some sections of Part 2 In sum if you're even a little interested in world history and issues of development this book will nicely round out your understanding of the subject

  9. Ed Stoddard says:

    This is one of the most thought provoking and insightful works of history that I have read for some time Green connects pre colonial West 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 Africa and the wider Atlantic economy For several centuries Western African societies exported what might be called 'hard currencies' especially gold; these were currencies that on a global scale retained their value over time For the first two centuries of Atlantic slave trade these societies also imported large amounts of goods that were used as currencies cowries copper cloth and iron However these were what we might call 'soft currencies' which were losing their relative value over time By 1700 therefore centuries of trade had been grounded in ineualities of the exchange of economic value Among other things this would lead to what economists might today call a terms of trade shock which weakened West African states and economies ahead of the late 19th century colonisation scramble The net cast by the book is wide Who knew that West African demand for iron ore helped to facilitate early industrialisation in Eurpe? Then there is the Age of Revolution in the book's title the age that began with the American French and Haitian Revolutions and Britain's Industrial Revolution Green reclaims West Africa's place in this history the peoples of the region overthrew aristocracies that had emerged to prey on them including literally in the case of enslavement There were echoes of this around the Atlantic which have since largely been lost to history When political analysts today speak of state failure or failed states in Africa they are often detached from the deep historical roots of these trends The same might be said about the ineualities that have helped to give rise to 21st century Islamist militancy on the continent which is also in some ways an echo of past movements that flourished against the backdrop of increasing ineuities One hopes to some day see similar histories of east and Southern Africa

  10. Peter says:

    The British Historian Toby Green’s monograph A Fistful of Shells is an economic history of Western Africa from the late Medieval West Africa to West Africa in the Age of Revolution mainly focused on the Islamic Jihads in West Africa in the early 19th Century The book is mainly focused on the economic social and cultural impacts of the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade on West Africans The central argument is that trade imbalance in currencies between West Africans and Europeans in the time led to current economic ineuality between West Africa and the rest of the Atlantic World Green believes that the way economic history is taught in most of the world is very heavily Eurocentric at the cost of ignoring the true complexity and global nature of economic history Green is interested in showing that the economic systems in Western Africa were as developed as the economic system in Europe by the time of the arrivals of the Portuguese traders in the 15th Century in ways that were similar and different to the economic systems of Europe at that time Green wants to show that West Africans had agency within the early trans Atlantic economic system The Trans Atlantic economic system for Green created a tax base an economic system and a military system to build a collection of early modern states in West Africans similar to European states that developed in the early modern era West Africans became tired of the corrupting power of the trans Atlantic trading on the political ruling class of West Africa During the Age of Revolution a series of Jihad movements swept through Islamic West Africa This movement gained popularity by promising to end the direct impact of the trans Atlantic slave trade on the subjects of these new Islamic Caliphates in West Africa I was convinced by most of the main arguments of the monograph I thought the inclusive economic history of the Atlantic World was very interesting in part because I never realized the history that they teach in economics class was Eurocentric Economic history hopefully becomes global and inclusive in the future

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