We are living in a strange and unsettling moment, but the value of books and reading is perhaps emphasised as never before during lockdown - when many of us are looking for distraction, entertainment and education.Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation
29 April 2020
A Fistful of Shells by Toby Green nominated for Wolfson History Prize 2020
A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution, by Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture Dr Toby Green, has been shortlisted for the Wolfson History Prize 2020.
The awards recognise the best factual history writing from the past year. In the book, Dr Green changes our view of West and West-Central Africa by reconstructing the world of these kingdoms, which revolve around trade, diplomacy, complex religious beliefs, and the production of art.
The shortlist announcement comes as historical non-fiction sees a 14 per cent uplift in sales over the past five years, with World History experiencing phenomenal growth in the UK, with a 92 per cent increase in book sales since 2015, according to new data from Nielsen Book.
The judges’ comments on Dr Green’s book are: “A game-changing book which brings previously unpublished sources and a largely overlooked subject to our attention with a passionate urgency.”
Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, which awards the Prize, commented: “The Wolfson History Prize is awarded as an expression of the importance of history to the life of the country. The Prize recognises books that brim with brilliance and that break new ground in our understanding of past societies across the globe. These are books which are compellingly written to appeal to all.”
It looks at how history is reinterpreted by later generations, and how this can result in a collective ignorance of entire countries’ pasts. Exploring the history of pre-colonial West Africa, Dr Green dismantles the Western notion that Africa had little history before European colonisation, and reveals the rich and complex history of the region over a thousand years.
The winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2020 will be announced on 15 June 2020 in a virtual ceremony. The winner of the Wolfson History Prize, the most valuable non-fiction writing prize in the UK, will be awarded £40,000, with each of the shortlisted authors receiving £4,000.
The Wolfson History Prize is run and awarded by the Wolfson Foundation, an independent charity that awards grants in the fields of science, health, education, arts & humanities. The Wolfson History Prize 2019 was won by Mary Fulbrook for her exploration of justice in the wake of World War Two, Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice.