Landscapes, Sources and Intellectual Projects of the West African Past

Essays in Honour of Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias


Volume Editors: and
Landscapes, Sources and Intellectual Projects of the West African Past offers a comprehensive assessment of new directions in the historiography of West Africa. With twenty-four chapters by leading researchers in the study of West African history and cultures, the volume examines the main trends in multiple fields including the critical interpretation of Arabic sources; new archaeological surveys of trans-Saharan trade; the discovery of sources in Latin America relating to pan-Atlantic histories; and the continuing analysis of oral histories. The volume is dedicated to Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias, whose work inspired the intellectual reorientations discussed in its chapters and stands as the clearest formulation of the book’s central focus on the relationship between political conjunctures and the production of sources.

Contributors are: Benjamin Acloque, Karin Barber, Seydou Camara, Mamadou Diawara, Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias, François-Xavier Fauvelle, Nikolas Gestrich, Toby Green, Bruce Hall, Jan Jansen, Shamil Jeppie, Daouda Keita, Murray Last, Robin Law, Camille Lefebvre, Paul Lovejoy, Ghislaine Lydon, Carlos Magnavita, Sonja Magnavita, Kevin MacDonald, Thomas McCaskie, Ann McDougall, Daniela Moreau, Mauro Nobili, Insa Nolte, Abel-Wedoud Ould-Cheikh, Benedetta Rossi, Charles Stewart.

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Toby Green is Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King’s College London. He is the author of The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300-1589 (Cambridge, 2012).

Benedetta Rossi is Reader in African Studies at the University of Birmingham. She is the author of From Slavery to Aid: Politics, Labour, and Ecology in the Nigerien Sahel, 1800-2000 (Cambridge 2015).
[...] The editors have done a very good job of bringing together a wide range of scholars to engage with Moraes Farias’ ideas and give them new life. This book is a useful and welcome contribution that overcomes traditional disciplinary divides and makes for a very fitting tribute to this great scholar and his work.[...]

Sirio Canós-Donnay, Institute of Heritage Sciencies, Spanish National Research Council, in African Archaeology Review (2020) 37:315–316
Notes on Contributors


Part 1: Archaeology and Material Landscapes

1 All that Glitters is not Gold: Facing the Myths of Ancient Trade between North and Sub-Saharan Africa
Sonja Magnavita and Carlos Magnavita
2 African Archaeology and the ‘Chalk Line Effect’: A Consideration of Māli City and Siğilmāsa
François-Xavier Fauvelle
3 The ‘Pays Dô’ and the Origins of the Empire of Mali
Kevin C. MacDonald, Nikolas Gestrich, Seydou Camara, Daouda Keita

Part 2: Imagined Landscapes and Moral Topographies

4 Imitation and Creativity in the Establishment of Islam in Oyo
Insa Nolte
5 Fante ‘Origins’: The Problematic Evidence of ‘Tradition’
Robin Law
6 The Unknowns of the Modern Era in the Greater Western Sahara: Reassessing the Territorial Location of the Wlād Dlaym (15th–17th Centuries)
Benjamin Acloque
7 The Almoravids and Ašʿarism: Regarding the Work of al-Murādī al-Ḥaḍramī
Abdel Wedoud Ould-Cheikh

Part 3: Contextualising Writing and Written Sources

8 Inscribing the Now and the Hereafter: First Writings in Early African History
Ghislaine Lydon
9 New Reinventions of the Sahel: Reflections on the Taʾrīḫ Genre in the Timbuktu Historiographical Production, Seventeenth to Twentieth Centuries
Mauro Nobili
10 Calibrating the Scholarship of Timbuktu
Charles C. Stewart
11 Rethinking the Place of Timbuktu in the Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa
Bruce S. Hall
12 Two Examples of Sahelian Book Collectors Over Two Centuries
Shamil Jeppie

Part 4: Contextualising Orature and Traditionalists

13 The Time-Tested Traditionist: Intellectual Trajectory and Mediation from the Early Empires to the Present day
Mamadou Diawara
14 The Next Generation: Young Griots’ Quest for Authority
Jan Jansen
15 In Praise of History; History as Praise
Karin Barber
16 From Essentialism to Pluralisms: New Directions in Precolonial West African History from the Oral History Archive at Fajara, the Gambia
Toby Green
17 Dreamworlds: Cultural Narrative in Asante Visionary Experience
Thomas C. McCaskie

Part 5: Projects, Texts, and Representations

18 The Life of a Text: Carsten Niebuhr and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Aġa’s Das innere von Afrika
Camille Lefebvre
19 The Kano Chronicle Revisited
Paul E. Lovejoy
20 Slavery or Death in Sokoto and Borno: Tactics, Legalities and Sources
Murray Last
21 A Story of Exile, a Story in Exile: Louis Hunkanrin, Mauritania and ‘Un Forfait Colonial’ (Revisited)
E. Ann McDougall
22 Edmond Fortier (1862–1928): Photographer, Documentarian and Creator of Stereotypes in West Africa
Daniela Moreau

Afterword: Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias’ Publications and Interview
Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias
Interpreting Sources of the African Past: An Interview with Paulo Fernando de Moraes Farias by
Benedetta Rossi
All interested in West African history, African history generally, and – beyond Africanists – anyone concerned with historical theory and methods for the exegesis and interpretation of sources.
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