Spring 2023

Riot and Rebellion in Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

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


Sean Redding (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 488 [AF/TE/TR/TS] and BLST 321 [A]) There were numerous rebellions in Africa during the colonial period and violent resistance to state authority has continued to characterize political life in many post-colonial African countries. We will look at the economic, social, religious, and political roots of these disturbances. Rebel groups and state forces 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 also discuss the problems historians face in researching revolts whose strengths often stemmed from their protean characters. The seminar will study specific revolts, including the Herero Revolt and subsequent genocides in German-controlled South-West Africa in 1904-1907; the first (1896-1897) and second (1960-1979) Chimurengas (revolts) in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe; the Chilembwe Revolt in Malawi in 1915; the Black Consciousness Movement and the student revolt in Soweto, South Africa in 1976; the roles of child soldiers and youth in post-colonial conflicts, and the Holy Spirit Movement and the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda. Students will complete a 20 to 25 page research paper on individually chosen topics relating to revolts in Africa. Two class meetings per week. 

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

How to handle overenrollment: Preference to History majors, then to Black Studies majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: The course asks students to: • Read historical accounts deeply, with the goal of advancing knowledge through discussion and writing. • Develop familiarity with different analyses of individual revolts in Africa and theories about conflict. • Discern the different ways in which scholars gather, contextualize, and analyze evidence. • Engage actively in scholarly conversations about resistance to colonial and authoritarian rule in Africa and the resort to violence as a means of forcing political change. • Write persuasively about historical events, using evidence to support an argument. • Devise a research question, access appropriate primary and secondary sources, and develop a historical narrative about an individually chosen topic. • Read, comment on, and workshop other students’ papers. • Complete a research paper of 20 to 25 pages, plus bibliography.


2022-23: Offered in Spring 2023
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Fall 2012, Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022