As an economic historian, with specialization in international trade and economic development, I attempt in my research and teaching to make history relevant to the main concerns of people in our contemporary world. Since the social sciences do not have laboratories, as the natural sciences do, I believe history can operate as a laboratory for the better understanding of issues that are of primary concern in our modern world. Without being teleological, I take a long-term view of the development process, in all its complexities that require a multidisciplinary approach. My interest in the Industrial Revolution in England, which ultimately led to my 2002 book, was originally inspired by the possible lessons it can offer to policymakers concerned with long-run development problems of our time. My study located the Industrial Revolution within the broad context of Atlantic world history. My current fellowship project extends that approach to western Africa's long-run development process from 1450 to 1900.Although my Ph.D. dissertation was written for the University of Ibadan, by special arrangement, much of the work was done at the London School of Economics, where I benefited from the school's strong program in development economics and economic history, as well as the stimulating seminars of the Institute of Historical Research conducted by the best minds from all the colleges of London University and visiting scholars from all over the world researching in London. After starting my university teaching career at the University of Ibadan (1972-73) and moving to Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1973), I returned, once again, to the London School of Economics as a Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellow (1974-75). Subsequently, I was in the Centre of West African Studies, Birmingham University, as a John Cadbury Visiting Fellow (1980), where I had the opportunity to interact with Antony G. Hopkins, John D. Fage, Marion Johnson, and other eminent scholars in African studies. After spending fifteen years at Ahmadu Bello University (1973-87), I moved to the University of Rochester in 1988.Since the 1970s, I have acted as a consulting scholar to UNESCO in a number of its projects, including the General History of Africa. I served as a member of the International Drafting Committee for the General History of the Caribbean (from the 1980s). Apart from my professional work in the academy, I have also done some advisory work for the Federal Government in Nigeria. I served briefly as one of the founding Directing Staff of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Jos (1979) and was appointed by President Babangida (1987) to chair a presidential panel charged with the task of working out solutions to the problem of inter-group relations in Nigeria.My life time achievement honors include: "The distinguished Africana Award" from the African New World Studies Program, Florida International University (2007); "Distinguished Africanist Award" from the New York State African Studies Association (2008); and I was proclaimed "Distinguished Visitor" by the officials of the City of Miami for my "contributions to the examination of the African Atlantic..." (2007). My book, Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England, won the 2003 American Historical Association's Leo Gershoy Award, and also the 2003 African Studies Association's Herskovits Award.


B.A. (Honors) (1967) History, University of Ibadan; Ph.D. (1973) History, University of Ibadan


  • Director of Graduate Studies, Department of History, University of Rochester, 2001-2006
  • Associate Director, Frederick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, University of Rochester, 1989-1998
  • Professor of History, University of Rochester, since 1989
  • Visiting Professor, University of Rochester, 1988
  • Chairman, Department of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1982-1986
  • Professor of History, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1981-1988
  • Reader, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria,1978-1981
  • Senior Lecturer, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1976-1978
  • Lecturer I, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1974-1976
  • Assistant Lecturer, University of Ibadan, 1972-1973


Global economic history, with specialization in international trade and economic development in the Atlantic world

Project Summary

The project is a study in Atlantic world history. It focuses on how the Transatlantic Slave Trade affected the long-run process of socioeconomic development in western Africa, within the context of the evolution of an integrated Atlantic economy from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, in which the employment of enslaved Africans in large-scale commodity production in the Americas for Atlantic commerce played a major role. The analytical framework for the study draws on recent conceptual advances in global history and institutional theory. Earlier writings on the subject have been very general, lacking in the kind of empirical and conceptual details commonly displayed in the study of long-term development processes in other regions of the world. The amount of quantitative data (including an unusually large amount of domestic price data) and the employment of recent advances in institutional theory and global perspective will make the study an innovative approach that challenges the received wisdom in the current literature on Atlantic world history and African development studies.

Major Publications

  • Africans and the Industrial Revolution in England: A Study in International Trade and Economic Development (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)
  • The Chaining of a Continent: Export Demand for Captives and the History of Africa South of the Sahara, 1450-1870 (UNESCO Project, published by Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica, 1992).
  • Forced Migration: The Impact of the Export Slave Trade on African Societies, Edited (London, New York: Hutchinson, Africana, 1982).