Fall 2023

Diamonds (Guns and Money): An African History of a Precious Commodity

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-326  |  History, as HIST-326


Sean Redding (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 326 [AF/TC/TE/TR] and BLST 326) Diamonds have a long history in global trade; for centuries, they were scarce enough to be among the most precious commodities. But in 1867, the discovery of diamonds in a remote part of the Cape Colony in southern Africa turned them into a commodity that helped to finance the construction of the British empire on the continent and fueled mineral exploitation and empire building by other colonial powers. The diamond industry emerged by the early twentieth century by developing a mass retail market in the gem as a symbol of marital love and respectability, a marketing feat that masked the harsh realities of their production. More recent diamond discoveries in Africa (and elsewhere) have been implicated in enough revolts, secessionist movements, and arms deals to earn the label “conflict diamonds” for the gems coming out of those regions. We will trace the history of diamonds on the continent from their discoveries through the development of mining and labor systems, the creation of the global consumer market, and the use of diamonds as a source of revenue for aspiring empire-builders and revolutionaries. Two class meetings per week.

Fall semester. Professor Redding.

How to handle overenrollment: null

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: By the end of the semester, students will have developed the following: An understanding of the history of diamonds as a commodity and how the exploitation of diamonds related to the colonization of the African continent in the 19th and 20th centuries; the ability to read articles and books analytically, with the goal of evaluating evidence and arguments through discussion and writing; an understanding of the different types of evidence that scholars employ in developing their analyses; a facility with engaging actively, cooperatively, and respectfully in discussions about historical narratives; and the skills to write persuasively about specific topics by providing evidence to support their arguments.

BLST 326 - LEC

Section 01
Tu 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CHAP 210
Th 10:00 AM - 11:20 AM CHAP 210

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
Clarity, Cut and Culture: The Many Meanings of Diamonds New York : NYU Press, 2014. Falls, Susan TBD
Blood and Diamonds: Germany’s Imperial Ambitions in Africa Cambridge, Massachusetts : Harvard University Press, 2021. Press, Steven TBD


Other years: Offered in Spring 2020, Fall 2023