Moraes Farias is one of the rare historians in Britain whose range of interests includes the early pre-colonial history of Africa. His Arabic Medieval Inscriptions from the Republic of Mali (2003) was a finalist for the Herskovits Award (2004) and won the Paul Hair Prize(2005) conferred by the USA African Studies Association together with the Association for the Preservation and Publication of African Historical Sources. A discussion to explore the issues raised by the work was held at the Centre d’Études des Mondes Africains, Université de Paris-1, and was later published in Afrique&Histoire 4 (2005), 175-243. A similar discussion was organised (2007) by the Institute for the Study of Islamic Thought in Africa at the Program of African Studies, Northwestern University.
Reviewers have pointed out that in addition to revealing a corpus of new sources the book deconstructed the established paradigm of Sahelian historical studies, which had originated with Heinrich Barth in the 1850s. Other Moraes Farias publications (on the Almoravids in the Western Sahara, “Silent Trade”, oral traditions, and the interaction of Islamic and other cultures) are also credited with producing shifts of perspective in African studies.