From Monograph to Classroom: Securing the Future of West African History Through Pedagogical Innovation

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: History


This project will deliver major new benefits and capitalise on the AHRC Leadership Fellowship awarded to Dr Toby Green under the Early Career Route in 2016 for the project Money, Slavery and Political Change in Precolonial West Africa (AH/N004485/1). There were two major impacts associated with this project as funded, both in the education sector: the first was the development and initial promotion of the OCR A level option "African Kingdoms, c. 1400-1800", and the second the development of a new online textbook freely available to all Senior Secondary schoolchildren in English-speaking West Africa sitting the West African Senior Secondary School Examination (WASSCE) in History.

This follow-on funding allows the development of a much fuller take-up of these projects than was initially envisaged in the impact funding for the first project. Regarding the WASSCE textbook, this funded the production of the text, the setting up of the website, and the launching of the textbook at the West African Education Council (WAEC) meeting in Banjul in March 2018. Regarding the OCR course it funded a summer school and website. However no teacher training in the WAEC countries delivering this resource was envisaged. Nevertheless, since the project was launched, it has become clear through dialogue with African partners that a full suite of teacher training programs is required for the project to be fully successful, and to reach the maximum number of users, and hence the need for this funded expansion of the original impact is necessary.

This follow-on bid is now made with Dr Vincent Hiribarren as co-Investigator. Dr Hiribarren is a colleague of the PI's in the History department at King's College London. His participation as Co-Investigator derives from the heavy participation he has had in the project to date, since he designed the website, wrote two of the chapters, and attended both project meetings in Freetown and Banjul. As website designer, a historian of West Africa, well known to participants in the project from all 4 participant countries, and someone with extensive pedagogical experience at secondary and tertiary levels, he is an ideal participant in the teacher training aspects of the project.

The impact of this follow-on funding will be extensive. The launching of these projects has enabled the PI to develop a much fuller suite of new connections and a framework to now ensure full take-up of these projects and training in their implementation, which will be secured by the follow-on funding. In the WASSCE case, the PI and Co-I will co-lead pedagogy workshops in each of the 4 countries which contributed to the development of the new resource, in collaboration with West African partners. These workshops will train teachers in the delivery of the textbook, in new pedagogical models, and in designing new course materials. In the OCR case, a new partnership with the Royal African Society's Education office will enable full connection with a range of schools not previously reached through the promotion related to this option.

Both impacts will therefore be radically extended through the follow-on funding. The WASSCE impact will also significantly build towards the development of the Global Challenges Research Fund framework through developing new pedagogical resources and expertise in West Africa, while the OCR textbook helps to deliver on the recognised importance of expanding diversity of perspectives and histories taught in UK schools. Indeed it's to be noted in the latter case that this is something of growing importance to the Historical profession, following the launch of the Royal Historical Society's report on Race, Ethnicity and Equality in October 2018 (

Planned Impact

The follow-on funding's focus is a radically expanded impact developing from the initial leadership fellowship. This builds on the initial research component of the project, the PI's research on precolonial West African economic history, resulting in the monograph A Fistful of Shells: West Africa From the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (Allen, Lane/Chicago University Press, 2019).

The research for this project involved extensive fieldwork in a number of West African countries. Through this fieldwork, and engagement with research collaborators in West Africa, the PI became aware of the urgent need to develop proper resources for both learners and teachers for the delivery of the History curriculum in West African schools. This saw the development of a revised Impact plan in the initial Leadership Fellowship, through the development of a dedicated website hosting a free ebook written by a number of collaborators based in and outside of West Africa (

The impact for this follow-on funding will see the radical expansion of the reach of this textbook through the following means:
1) Hosting of dedicated teacher-training workshops in each of the 4 West African Education Council (WAEC) countries (Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, The Gambia) which contributed to developing the ebook, where textbook authors and history professors will lead pedagogical training and develop new pedagogical resources for history teachers in these countries. This will thereby for the first time empowering teachers to both know better the resources available and the material for teaching, and thereby to enhance their students' knowledge.
2) The supplying of free flashdrives with the ebook, for distribution in each WAEC country, to ensure as wide access to this resource as possible. The flashdrives will be distributed with an eye to the population of each country, numbers as follows: 3000 for Nigeria, 1500 for Ghana, 500 each for Gambia and Sierra Leone. The flashdrives will be pre-loaded with the textbook, which activity will be paid for from administrative costs associated with the project.

This WASSCE project in turn developed from the PI's existing work with the OCR Assessment board, as a member of the OCR History Consultative forum and lead consultant on the development of the OCR A level option "African Kingdoms: c. 1400 - c. 1800". The impact for the original Leadership Fellowship involved workshops for secondary school teachers on this option and a plenary lecture at the Schools' History Project conference. However the urgency of this impact has been redoubled subsequently following the Royal Historical Society's report on Ethnicity, Race and Equality, and the growing clamour for a more diverse representation in school curricula.

With this in mind, the PI will radically expand the impact of this project through a new partnership with the Royal African Society (RAS)'s Education office. This will lead to:
1) New partnerships and workshops with partners identifed by RAS, including the Historical Association and the National Union of Teachers' Black Teachers Network
2) New workshops with an expanded mailing list of interested teachers established by the RAS, and also by the Pi and Co-I's host institution, King's College London's History department, which has launched recently a King's History teachers' network

Beyond this, the impact of the initial research leading to the impact agenda will be developed further through the publication of the PI's monograph in the US by Chicago University Press and in the UK by Allen Lane. This has already seen a lengthy feature published in History Today (Feb 2019). The visit to the ASA meeting in Boston to promote the WASSCE project (November 2019) will be timed to coincide with publicity events for the monograph, with invitations received already from the Director of the Smithsonian Museum of African Art to discuss the book.


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