No confidence

I write today from the beautiful Duke Humfrey’s reading room in the Bodleian Library (Oxford).  The reading room, which  is very The Name of the Rose (but with computers), is the oldest reading room in ‘the Bod’, the original section having been completed in 1487.

I have been reading about the activities of the Wangara in the Islamisation of Kano and Borgu, and wholly by chance came across some 1927 maps of Afrique Occidentale Française – one interesting thing being how much more detailed they seem to be for the Saharan regions than for the Sahel father south.

I’m in Oxford because I had been invited to deliver a talk to the Medieval Economic and Social History group, which I did last night and very much enjoyed. I spoke about trade diasporas in the medieval Sahel, one of the topics which Crossroads is investigating.

After the seminar, we went for a drink at The Bear and a curry. As well as gold/silver medieval currency, the impact of Islam in literacy, networks of trust, the place of world history in the curriculum, and the economic history of medieval southern Germany, we talked about the vote of no confidence passed a couple of weeks ago by Oxford lecturers and tutors. As a reminder, this was the story:

Dons at Oxford University have delivered a decisive “no confidence” vote in the Universities minister, David Willetts. There were cheers last night when the vote was announced in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre – the first time a “no confidence” motion had ever been issued in a government minister by the university’s Senate. It was carried by the massive margin of 283 votes to five. During the debate, Abdel Takriti, a tutor at St Edmund Hall, called the Government’s plans for further education – under which student fees would rise to up to £9,000 a year – “ill-articulated and incoherent”.

I learnt last night that following that vote, a website has now been created on the back of that vote to coordinate motions of no-confidence at higher education institutions across the country: “Campaigning for an alternative to the Higher Education policies of the coalition government”. Check it out.


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About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

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June 2011
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