Two African historians win largest history prize in the world

Mildred Europa Taylor March 06, 2023
Nigerian Professor Saheed Aderinto and Kenyan historian Chao Tayiana Maina. Photos: The Dan David Prize

Nigerian Professor Saheed Aderinto and Kenyan historian Chao Tayiana Maina are among the 2023 winners of the Dan David Prize, the largest history prize in the world. Each of the winners announced on February 28 will receive $300,000 in recognition of their contribution to the study of the past and to support their future work.

“Our winners represent a new generation of historians. They are changing our understanding of the past by asking new questions, targeting under-researched topics and using innovative methods,” said Ariel David, board member of the Prize and the son of its founder. “Many of the winners we are recognizing today are still in the early stages of their careers, but they have already challenged how we think about history.”

Aderinto, a Professor of History and African Diaspora Studies at Florida International University, is known for his work on African history, politics, and culture. According to the Dan David Prize, his work challenges historians “to think about what constitutes the past in completely new ways, to ask new questions about the makers of history and to question conventional assumptions about power, agency and authority.”

He was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1979 and earned his Bachelor’s in History from the University of Ibadan in 2004. He went on to receive his Ph.D. in 2010 from the University of Texas at Austin. That same year, he started his teaching career at Western Carolina University, becoming a full Professor of History in 2021 before moving to Florida International University the following year. Aderinto is behind eight books, 37 journal articles and book chapters, 21 book reviews, and 41 encyclopedia articles. 

His first book, When Sex Threatened the State, won the 2016 Nigerian Studies Association Book Award for being the “most important scholarly book/work on Nigeria published in the English language.” The historian is currently writing a book and making a documentary about the history of Fuji music in Nigeria.

He recently expressed his excitement about winning the Dan David Prize. “I just won the largest history prize in the world. It’s $300,000. For me, alone. One lump sum. 220 million, in Nigerian currency,” he wrote on Facebook.

Maina, who is the founder of African Digital Heritage, a non-profit organization in Nairobi, Kenya, uses innovative ways to highlight her country’s history. The Dan David Prize says she “uses digital technologies to capture and preserve previously hidden or suppressed historical narratives in Kenya, enabling communities to engage with their cultural heritage and centering African histories within digital spaces.”

She wants to ensure that African people from across the world are able to actively engage with their cultural heritage. Besides founding the African digital heritage, Maina is also the co-founder of the volunteer collective Museum of British Colonialism and of the Open Restitution Africa project.

The Dan David Prize

Established in 2001 by Romanian-born entrepreneur and philanthropist Dan David, the prize first highlighted the enormous contributions made to humanity but later turned its focus to history. The Prize is awarded by the Dan David Foundation each year to outstanding early and mid-career scholars and practitioners in the historical disciplines. This year’s winners were selected from scores of nominations submitted by colleagues, institutions and the general public in an open nomination process. A Selection Committee made up of eminent scholars and practitioners in history and related fields recommended the winners, the Prize said.

The awards ceremony will be organized in May in Israel.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 6, 2023


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