A book exploring a history of Africa “few Westerners know” has won a £25,000 prize.
The account of West African cultural achievements prior to European intervention has been awarded the Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize For Global Cultural Understanding.
A Fistful Of Shells: West Africa From The Rise Of The Slave Trade To The Age Of Revolution, by British historian Toby Green, reveals a rich history in the region before colonial intrusion.
The work has been hailed for highlighting an often-overlooked continent and cosmopolitan culture, and prize judges have deemed it history Westerners “ought to” know.
Speaking on behalf of the award jury Professor Ash Amin said: “A Fistful Of Shells is a treasure trove of a book.
“Truly ground-breaking, it draws on years of work to tell another story of pre-colonial West Africa, a continually ignored continent.
“It changed the way in which the jury thought about Africa and helped us to better understand not just Africa but the way in which the world is changing right now.
“Finally, a detailed history that few westerners know but all ought to.
“Quite simply, an eye-opener.”
The book has been awarded the £25,000 Nayef Al-Rodhan Prize, which is given annually for non-fiction which promotes global cultural understanding.
A Fistful Of Shells argues that prior to the 18th and 18th centuries, West Africa was far from backward, and there was a thriving culture in pre-colonial region, with trade networks and an advanced economy.
Professor David Cannadine, historian and president of the British Academy, added: “On behalf of the British Academy, I would like to congratulate Toby Green on the masterful achievement that A Fistful Of Shells represents for his work, for those in his field of global African history, and for global cultural understanding.”
The announcement of the 2019 win was made at a ceremony at the British Academy in London.
Previous winners of the prize have included works on Islam, free speech, German history.