About Toby Green

Image: Toby Green

Toby Green is the author of a diverse body of work, and his work has been translated into a dozen languages. He worked as a teacher, literary agent and journalist before becoming an academic specializing in the history of precolonial West Africa, and he is now Senior Lecturer in Lusophone African History and Culture at King's College London. He lives with his life partner, Emily, and their two teenage daughters; as well as with a growing crowd of seedlings which he is learning how to cultivate in an allotment garden.

Green's first major historical work was Inquisition: The Reign of Fear (Macmillan, 2007; Thomas Dunne, 2009), and this was followed by The Rise of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in Western Africa, 1300-1589 (Cambridge University Press, 2012) and most recently the prize-winning book A Fistful of Shells: West Africa from the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (Allen Lane/Chicago University Press, 2019). Awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in History in 2017, Green is also the author of a biography of the first Bishop of Michoacan in Mexico, Thomas More's Magician (2004, Weidenfeld & Nicolson); of  the novels Imaginary Crimes (2013) and Colombian Roulette (2016), both published by Mkuki na Nyota; and of two early travel books, Saddled with Darwin (1999) and Meeting the Invisible Man (2001).

Beyond ongoing writing projects, Green's work today encompasses the research of early African history and public access to it. In the UK he developed a new A level option  with the OCR A level board, "African Kingdoms: 1400-1800", which launched in 2015 (see www.africankingdoms.co.uk); and he has helped develop a series of teaching resources aimed at younger children, also available on this site. He is also co-ordinating editor of a new team-written coursebook for West African secondary schoolchildren, alongside historians from Fourah Bay College (Sierra Leone), Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana), Michigan State University, and the National Centre for Arts and Culture (The Gambia), which is freely available to download across the continent from an eplatform at https:///wasscehistorytextbook.wordpress.com.


Toby Green's outlook is shaped by his experiences in different parts of the world. As part of his work he has spent extended periods living and researching in Banjul, Bissau, Bogota, Lima, Lisbon, Madrid, Mexico City, Praia, Santiago de Chile, and Seville. He has also worked intensively in recent years with academic colleagues in Angola, Brazil, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and The Gambia. His work has been profoundly affected by his doctoral supervisor, the Brazilian scholar of Timbuktu and Songhay, P.F. de Moraes Farias, and by his long-time collaborator and friend, the South African screenwriter and comic book expert Ian L. Rakoff.

He is also deeply influenced by the interconnected cultural forms of West Africa and Latin America, and this has led to the coorganisation of workshops bringing together historians and musicians from West Africa.


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