Spring 2022

Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-321  |  History, as HIST-488

Formerly listed as: BLST-50  |  HIST-92


Sean Redding (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 488 [AF/TE/TR] and BLST 321 [A]) There were numerous rebellions against the state during the period of European colonial rule. Violent resistance to state authority has continued to characterize political life in many post-colonial African countries. This seminar will examine the development of several outbreaks of violence in Africa in the colonial and post-colonial periods to explore critical historical questions in a comparative context. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances. Rebel groups and the states challenged roiled societies and reconstituted social identities, while legends and rumors swirled around rebellions and their leaders. We will focus on insurgencies and their origins, including spiritual and religious beliefs, disputes over land and labor, and fights against colonial and post-colonial authoritarian states. We will discuss the problems historians face in researching revolts whose strength often stemmed from their protean character. The seminar will study specific revolts, including the Herero Revolt and subsequent genocide in German-controlled South-West Africa in 1904-1907; the first (1896-1897) Chimurenga (revolts) in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; the Mau Mau revolt in colonial Kenya, the Black Consciousness Movement and the student revolt in Soweto, South Africa in 1976; and the Holy Spirit Movement and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda in the 1990s. The seminar's goal is to engage students in a scholarly conversation about resistance to colonial and authoritarian rule in Africa and the resort to violence as a means of forcing political change. Students will also learn how to frame a research question and engage in researching a historical topic based on primary sources. Requirements include active participation in class, the completion of several short graded and ungraded written assignments, and the final 20 to 25-page research paper on an individually chosen topic. The successful completion of the research paper will satisfy the Research requirement for the History major. Two class meetings per week. 

Limited to 18 students. Not open to first-year students. Spring semester. Professor Redding. 

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Research seminars require independent research, including the framing of a research question, and the identification and analysis of relevant primary and secondary sources. History majors must write a 20-25 page, evidence-based paper. Students with documented disabilities who will require accommodations in this course should be in consultation with Accessibility Services and reach out to the faculty member as soon as possible to ensure that accommodations can be made in a timely manner.

If Overenrolled: Preference to History majors, then to Black Studies majors

This is preliminary information about books for this course. Please contact your instructor or the Academic Coordinator for the department, before attempting to purchase these books.

ISBN Title Publisher Author(s) Comment Book Store Price
Lord's Resistance Army: Myth and Reality Zed Books, 2010 Allen, T. & Vlassenroot, K., eds. Amherst Books TBD
Writing History: A guide for students Amherst Books TBD

These books are available locally at Amherst Books.


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2007, Fall 2008, Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023