Instructor: Dr. Mohamed Ali

Course Description:

The aim of this course is to introduce students to the principal themes of African history from the nineteenth century to the present. Our focus will be to provide an over view of the modern era of African history.

We are moved and troubled by what we occasionally see on the news: but often we lack context and information to move beneath the surface images to a deeper analysis of the issues involved. Too often our understanding of Africa is shaped by the myths and misconceptions generated by old movies and literature of an earlier era than by sound knowledge of Africa’s past and present. We will begin by taking some common images we hold about Africa and examining them in the light of African experience.

The impact of the outside world on traditional African social systems, economic organization, political institutions, religious beliefs and other patterns of life is unparalleled in history. We will focus on the principal themes of African history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries such as: the events and processes leading to colonization of Africa and subsequent changes in African societies under colonial rule; gender and social transformation in colonial Africa, nationalism and anti-colonialism in late colonial Africa. In particular we will examine the ways in which Africans defined their own needs under increasing external pressures during the 19th century and then responded to the imposition of colonial rule in the 20th century. We can begin to appreciate how they sought to reconstruct their societies as independent, post-colonial nation states. An in-depth examination will be made of the following critical problems and issues facing independent Africa: the colonial legacy, the prospect for democratization in Africa at the beginning of the new millennium, post-apartheid South Africa,developments of radical Islam and the Arab Spring. We will conclude an examination of the following crucial issues:  Africa’s place in global affairs, economic development, political instability, and the challenges in the 21st century.

A broad range of topics will be considered and class discussion will be predicate on the student having read the assigned material for that week. Films and Videos will be used whenever appropriate to provide you with images of Africa: the environment, peoples and cultures.

The structure of the course rests on the following format: lectures, which provide overviews of large themes and periods: the readings which provide detailed and textured to the themes and periods covered in the lecture: the class discussions which provide to ask questions about aspects of the readings and lectures that either confuse or inspire your interest.

Required Texts

  • Kevin Shillington, History of Africa
  • Adu Boahen, African Perspective on Colonialism
  • David Birmingham, The decolonization of Africa

Grading Method

Your grade in this class will be computed in the following manner:

  • Map Exercise – 10% of the final grade
  • Midterm – 35% of the final grade
  • Book report/Research topic – 10% of the final grade
  • Final Exam – 45% of the final grade