John Fage
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John Fage
John Donnelly Fage
Born(1921-06-03)3 June 1921
Teddington, Middlesex, England
Died6 August 2002(2002-08-06) (aged 81)
Machynlleth, Powys, Wales
Alma materCambridge University
Notable worksA History of Africa (1978)

John Donnelly Fage (3 June 1921 – 6 August 2002) was a British historian. He was noted for his work on African history.

Personal life

Fage was born in 1921 in Teddington, Middlesex, England. He attended Cambridge University (Magdalene College) for his undergraduate studies, Master's and Ph.D. (1949, The achievement of self-government in southern Rhodesia, 1898-1923).[1]


After his post-graduate studies, Fage joined the newly founded University of Gold Coast (now University of Ghana) at Accra, which was formed under the Asquith Commission and had a 'scheme of special relationship' with the University of London.[2] He spent a decade here (1949-1959), developing his interest in the history of Western Africa, and particularly the African Slave Trade, on which he was to publish extensively over the coming decade. The University started facing funding problems after 1955,[3] and many of the senior Cambridge staff left.

In 1957, after Ghana gained independence, he was appointed its Deputy Principal. However, in 1959 he returned to Britain to join the School of Oriental and African Studies (1959-1963) and then the University of Birmingham, where he founded the Centre of West African Studies (CWAS).[4] Here he spent two very productive decades (1963-1984), holding several senior administrative posts including Vice-Principal (1981-1984).

Fage's early work includes Introduction to the History of West Africa (Cambridge University Press 1955, three editions), which was rewritten as A History of West Africa: An introductory survey (Cambridge U.P. 1969). His An Atlas of African History (London: Edward Arnold 1958) is a widely known reference (2nd ed. 1978). The ambitious 600-page A History of Africa (London: Hutchinson 1978), covers the entire continent from the Neolithic to the late twentieth century, was widely referenced (4th ed. Routledge 2002).

In a long collaboration with Roland Oliver (who was his contemporary at Cambridge and visited him in Ghana), he founded the Journal of African History, and also edited the authoritative eight-volume Cambridge history of Africa, (1975 to 1986). Their Short History of Africa (Penguin 1962) ran to six editions (1988), and has been translated into twelve languages.[4] Fage died, aged 81, at Machynlleth, Wales.

Other works

  • 1969. A History of West Africa: An Introductory Survey. London, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • 1969. "Slavery and the slave trade in the context of African history," Journal of African History 10:393-404.
  • 1975. "The effect of the slave trade on African Population," in R.J.A.R. Rathbone and R.P. Moss, The Population Factor in African Studies, pp. 15-23.
  • 1975-1986. The Cambridge History of Africa. (8 vols.), general editors: J. D. Fage and Roland Oliver.
  • 1978. A History of Africa. London: Hutchinson. (4th edition (with William Tordoff) London, New York: Routledge).
  • 1978. An Atlas of African History. (with Maureen Verity) 2nd ed. London: E. Arnold.
  • 1979. Ghana: A Historical Interpretation. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • 1994. A Guide to Original Sources for Precolonial Western Africa Published in European Languages. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
  • 2002. To Africa and Back. Birmingham: Birmingham University African Studies Series No.6.


  1. ^ "John D. Fage". School of Oriental and African Studies. Mentions the British Library Who's Who as a source for biography.
  2. ^ G. F. Daniel, Registrar, University of Ghana (December 1996). "The universities in Ghana". Commonwealth Universities Year Book 1997-98; Vol.1; pp. 649-656. Retrieved .CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ John Fage. "David Balme at the University College of the Gold Coast". Retrieved .
  4. ^ a b P.F. de Moraes Farias. "John Donnelly Fage, 1921-2002" (PDF).

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