Sam Nixon

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

U. College London

Grant number

Gr. 9502

Approve Date

September 29, 2017

Project Title

Nixon, Dr. Sam R., U. College London, London, UK - To aid research and writing on 'Communities, Economies, and Exchange Networks Along the Caravan Routes of Trans-Saharan Africa' - Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Following the Islamic conquest of North Africa ca 7th century AD, camel-caravan trade across the Sahara escalated dramatically, focused around commerce in West African gold and slaves. The urban trading network this gave rise to played a fundamental role connecting the Mediterranean and sub-Saharan Africa in pre-modern times, but also provided a knowledge-base to enable early-modern European maritime exploration of sub-Saharan Africa and the wider southern hemisphere. This research project has conducted the most sustained analysis to date of pre-modern trans-Saharan networks, based on study of disparate historical and archaeological data across a wide range of primary and secondary sources, as well as unpublished archival material. It has also placed this historical phenomenon within wider debates concerning pre-modern exchange systems, urban networks, and cultural identity formation. The research will be published as a monograph by Thames & Hudson and entitled ‘The Gold Route: Communities, Economies, And Exchange Networks Along The Caravan Routes Of Trans-Saharan Africa (ca 8th–15th Century AD)’. The book’s main underlying message is de-centering historical understanding, including in relation to placing the European ‘Voyages of Discovery’ and European interaction with Africa in proper historical context. Through integrating West Africa into wider and constantly expanding dialogues concerning pre-modern ‘world systems’ — alongside better-known long-distance networks such as the Silk Road or Indian Ocean maritime routes — it also links trans-Saharan cultural systems into wider thinking about the making of the modern world. In the contemporary world of trans-Saharan migration to the Mediterranean and Europe, this also provides an essential understanding of deep-time historical processes behind this modern phenomenon.