Blog Archives


Prosser Gifford – Memorial Celebration




View video record of Memorial Service, 9 October 2021

Early in his career, Prosser worked with President Brewster to create an innovative new B.A. program at Yale:


His innovative approach to all the tasks he undertook inspired many new initiatives in the evolution of global understanding.

Senior Rhodes Scholar Inspires a New Approach to the Study of Africa Through Historical Cartography


and related:


as well as:










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Some Troubling Chapters in The Political Ecology & History of West African Agriculture


ZOOM Webinar session registration


Segments of Walter Rodney Lecture (with supporting links)


Part 1   Part 2   Part 3  Part 4 

Part 5    Part 6   Part 7

(Scan in QR code for access to all parts:)

QR-Rodney-Lecture-ntThe slave trade era in West African history was only made possible through a massive exportation of agricultural production — both actual and “embedded” — in the form of foodstuffs that made it possible to capture or acquire slaves in the first place, and then hold them in captivity and feed them as coerced labor for the construction of forts, ports and the infrastructure for the trade.  Finally, of course, large-scale food production was required to supply the food for the tens of millions of slaves to survive the Atlantic passage were required on a significant scale.  These “prior plantations” in Africa, in effect, proved to be crucial for the emergence of the plantations economies in Brazil, the Caribbean and the Americas. 

The history of these prior plantations has yet to be properly understood or studied in detail.  This provides numerous challenges for Africanist scholars, including archaeologists, ethno-botanists, ecologists and agricultural historians. 

Mapping the Slave Trade: 1556-1823 – A Digital Humanities Project

Detailed histories of the introduction and adaptation of “new world” crops could be undertaken in reference to specific locations of the prior plantations involved in the trans-Atlantic trade.

Old Maps & New Narratives: Digitizing Historical Maps to Analyze New Dimensions of the Atlantic Trade

The Prior Plantations, Legitimate Trade, Cash-Crop Exports & Farmland Grabs: Some Troubling Chapters in The Political Ecology &
History of West African Agriculture

Some related past Boston University discussions:

See related background material:


As well as:


Lecture follow-up, further related References and Links



Comparative Colonial Cartography: Presentation & Representation on the Frontiers of Empire


Some Elements in an Historical Archaeology of The Atlantic Trade System:What Will Count as Evidence? Part 1 | EV & N 369 | CCTV

YouTube Version

The Atlantic trade system that evolved over the last five hundred + years since 1492 needs to to be reconstructed from multiple resources including documents, ethno-botanical research, soil science, field excavations, cartographic history, historical epidemiology, the historic ecology of biological invasions, etc. 

Fortunately, new techniques of digitization and video communication make it possible now for the first time to convene international colloquia of specialists from all different countries, research disciplines and realms of expertise to share in cooperative research and teaching on a new scale in the global humanities.  Through “virtual” study and learning groups like “The Africa Map Circle” Africanists from many traditions can meet to share, examine and discuss rate and previously inaccessible resources on a scale never before possible.




Ignorance, Arrogance, Overshoot & Collapse: The Destructive Power of Enduing Myths In Collapsing Civilizations | EV & N 360 | CCTV

Industrial societies — based on legacy myths of boundless growth born of their colonial past — are destroying the essential support systems for many complex life-forms and most civilizations on Earth. The ignorance and arrogance of their myths of expansion and conquest are now inscribed in the fundamental belief systems of their leaders and embedded in their narratives of national self-understanding.

Alternative narratives that challenge the fanciful “white-settler” narratives that now dominate the outlook of American political leaders have been branded as “propaganda,” and an effort is being launched from the White House through a Presidential Executive Order to promote the teaching of a “patriotic history” to counter-act the pervasive understanding of American history across the world.

The task will not be easy. Much of the world understands that America was founded on the principle of genocide of the indigenous populations, built through hundreds of years of slave labor and sustained in more recent decades through imperialist warfare waged across the globe for the control of raw materials and markets. President Trump apparently intends to to promote a more “patriotic education” as he seeks to counter this “warped” understanding of the American story.

Those seeing to link to news about President Trump’s new Executive Order on YouTube are sometimes greeted with intervening advertisement for what is being called a “Patriot Protector Facial Cover” [made in America] for either men or women.


It is not clear whether or not this ad is in jest or for real. Nor is it clear from what the mask is designed to “protect” its wearer — or, alternatively, how it might serve to protect anyone in the proximity of the wearer.

Other topics of related interest include:

On the more fundamental problems of American cultural self-understanding see:


Online Research & Teaching with Africa Maps: Tips, Techniques, Examples & Resources | EV & N 364 | CCTV

YouTube Version

PDF of Slides to accompany video discussion.

Online libraries of African historical maps now make it possible to create innovative forms of multi-cultural & international online learning platforms.

This video is a short introduction to accessing and navigating African historical maps online through:

Online Research & Teaching with Africa Maps: Tips, Techniques, Examples & Resources
[PDF Support Slides]

Panel Chair: Tim Weiskel, Africa Map Circle


Gerald Rizzo, President, Afriterra, The Catrographic Free Library
William Worger, University of California, Los Angeles
Henry Lovejoy, University of Colorado Boulder
Paul Lovejoy, Department of History, York University
Andrew Apter, Department of History, UCLA

The COVID-19 lockdown has radically altered research, teaching, and learning in African studies at all levels — from K-12 classrooms through advanced post-doctoral archival research. For the foreseeable future it will no longer be possible to watch a movie together in classroom, nor can groups take field-trips to museums to view important Africa collections, nor will it be possible to assemble in auditoriums to hear from a visiting guest speaker reporting on current circumstances in Africa.

Further, while African studies has had to go “virtual” almost overnight, there are, so far, very few online “textbooks” that are accessible to assist teachers to design “virtual” classroom materials and teach under COVID-19 circumstances.

One immediate solution for this problem:

Despite the general paucity of online African studies materials there has been a remarkable development of resources for the study of historical maps and images of Africa. Over the last decade major innovations in the digitization of historical documents have now made it possible to conduct powerful, rewarding and highly innovative work online in African studies. (See:

This ASA panel will discuss case studies of newly available digitized documents and highlight innovative teaching approaches that can be used by anyone working in African studies. This session will be of interest to all those who must now design, enhance or extend online teaching of African studies in our COVID-19 circumstance. Those who attend this session will receive a helpful, “clickable” compendium (See: of accessible online resources for their immediate “virtual classroom” use.

See related:

Tim Weiskel
Dipl. Soc. Anthrop.(Oxon); DPhil (Oxon), MLS, FRGS
Coordinator, Africa Map Circle


Memory, Myth and Moral Authority: Recalling Images of the Past in Times of Crisis | EV&N – 355 | CCTV

YouTube Version

Some images of the past that live in memory can help us understand the present, but we need to learn how they were constructed.

This is video was created on 8 August 2020 for and broadcast on CCTV Channel 9 at 4:30pm on Sunday, 9 August 2020 to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bomb dropped by the American armed forces.

The program is part of an ongoing series — “EcoViews & News” (EV&N # 355) — past editions of which can be accessed by clicking here.


Learning and Teaching World History in a Time of Global Crisis | EV & N 354 | CCTV


YouTube Version

In the face of the global crises of climate change and permanent pandemic the human community needs now to forge new narratives of World History.

“We had fed the heart on fantasies;
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare.”

W. B. Yeats, Meditations in Time of Civil War

A pioneering scholar, admired professor and global educator who led the way in establishing the field of “comparative colonial studies” recently died.  It is appropriate to reflect on his enduring legacy.  This brief presentation is a compilation of thoughts and previous programs on aspects of World History that deserve attention — ever more poignantly as the entire human community now faces a “shelter-in-place” imperative imposed by a virus one billionth the size of an individual human being.   Never has the world community been in greater need of a new understanding of World History — a vision of which was championed with great kindness and generosity of heart by Prosser Gifford.  See:  “One chosen itinerary…”



Prosser Gifford, 1929 ~ 2020

See related –
Founders of the Yale 5-Yr B.A. Program + Class of Yale ’68

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Lyrics to Galaxy Song

Whenever life gets you down, Mrs.Brown
And things seem hard or tough
And people are stupid, obnoxious or daft
And you feel that you’ve had quite enough
Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour
That’s orbiting at nineteen miles a second, so it’s reckoned
A sun that is the source of all our power
The sun and you and me and all the stars that we can see
Are moving at a million miles a day
In an outer spiral arm, at forty thousand miles an hour
Of the galaxy we call the ‘milky way’
Our galaxy itself contains a hundred billion stars
It’s a hundred thousand light years side to side
It bulges in the middle, sixteen thousand light years thick
But out by us, it’s just three thousand light years wide
We’re thirty thousand light years from galactic central point
We go ’round every two hundred million years
And our galaxy is only one of millions of billions
In this amazing and expanding universe
The universe itself keeps on expanding and expanding
In all of the directions it can whizz
As fast as it can go, the speed of light, you know
Twelve million miles a minute and that’s the fastest speed there is
So remember, when you’re feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
‘Cause it’s bugger all down here on Earth.
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Eric Idle / Trevor Jones
Galaxy Song lyrics © Kay-gee-bee Music Ltd., Python Monty Pictures Ltd., Kay-gee-bee Music Ltd

Record Corporate Growth & Global System Collapse: Privatizing the Benefits and Externalizing the Costs of the World’s Carbon Addiction


YouTube Version

The world is simultaneously witnessing record corporate expansion and system-wide ecological collapse because corporations have systematically externalized the environmental costs of their products, production processes and addictive carbon consumption.

See related:

Presentation as part of the forthcoming Firing Line Debate:









Investment ~ Divestment in a Finite Ecosystem: The Fatal Fallacy of Market Economics on a Small Planet


YouTube Version

Prudent divestment and new investments can change the impact institutions have in the economy and the larger ecosystem, but the goal of continuous growth on a finite planet is ultimately not sustainable and calls into question the viability of “ethical investment policy” in the endowments of many institutions.

Presentation as part of forthcoming Firing Line Debate:


See related: