(Offered as HIST 284 [AFP] and BLST 211 [A]) The African continent has been called by one historian the social laboratory of humanity. Art, trade, small-scale manufacturing, medical knowledge, religion, state systems, history and legend all flourished before the formal political take-over of the continent by European powers in the late nineteenth century. It is this varied history of states and cultures in the period before 1885 that this course will examine. The course will explore four topics in depth: slave-ownership within African societies and the impact of both the trans-Atlantic and east African slave trades; the interaction of religion and power on the rise and fall of the central African kingdom of Kongo; the genesis of the Zulu state in southern Africa and the historical evidence behind the contradictory histories of Tshaka; and the changing roles of women as economic, political, and social actors. We will discuss some of the differences between oral historical narratives and written ones to understand both the history of the people living on the continent as well as the active process of writing and interpreting that history. Two class meetings per week.