On the Spot: Hakim Adi
‘It is not the rich and seemingly powerful that make history, but the majority of humans.’
Why are you a historian of Africa and the African diaspora?
I wanted to research and teach a subject that had been denied to me.
What’s the most important lesson history has taught you?
That it is not the rich and seemingly powerful that make history, but the majority of humans.
Which history book has had the greatest influence on you?
A.L. Morton’s A People’s History of England.
What book in your field should everyone read?
African and Caribbean People in Britain: A History.
Which moment would you most like to go back to?
To when I was 19 and about to start my study of African history at university.
Which historian has had the greatest influence on you?
Basil Davidson, the pioneering British historian of Africa.
Which person in history would you most like to have met?
My paternal grandfather, who was both a prince and enslaved.
How many languages do you have?
English (fluent), Spanish (learning), French (sufficient for archival work) and Yoruba (basic).
What historical topic have you changed your mind on?
Not changed exactly, but I’ve been able to appreciate the importance of the African diaspora in Central and South America.
What is the most common misconception about your field?
That it doesn’t exist.
Which genre of history do you like least?
What’s the most exciting field in history today?
My own: Africa and the African diaspora.
Is there an important historical text you have not read?
They are too numerous to mention.
What’s your favourite archive?
The Black Cultural Archives in Brixton.
What’s the best museum?
The Cairo Museum.
What technology has changed the world the most?
The Mediterranean or the Indian Ocean?
The Caribbean Sea.
Historical drama or documentary?
The Parthenon or Machu Picchu?
The Pyramids at Giza.
What will future generations judge us most harshly for?
Not empowering ourselves and becoming society’s decision-makers sooner.
Hakim Adi is Professor of the History of Africa and the African Diaspora at the University of Chichester and author of African and Caribbean People in Britain: A History (Allen Lane, 2022).