Fall 2024

Colonial and Post-Colonial Africa

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-121  |  History, as HIST-181


Sean Redding (Section 01)


(Offered as HIST 181 [AF/TE/TR/TS] and BLST 121 [A])  This course focuses on the long twentieth century in Africa, from the onset of colonial rule in the 1880s to the present moment of global engagement. We have three major questions that we will be pursuing throughout the semester. The first concerns various images of Africa and Africans, conceived in the West and then exported back into African societies. Can we distinguish the image from the reality, the myth from the reportage? The second question involves the causal relationship between colonial rule and the function and dysfunction of postcolonial rule: do some or all of Africa’s contemporary problems trace to the colonial past? Finally, we will try to understand what it was like to live within several African societies and through several momentous events in this historical period. The underlying questions we will explore are when and how history matters for understanding why the present is the way it is and whether history offers any insights into resolving longstanding problems. In the first half of the course, we will study the imperial scramble to colonize Africa, the broad integration of African societies into global economic and social trends, the social, political, and economic impact of imperial policies, popular Western images of Africa in the colonial period, nationalist struggles, the genocide in Rwanda, and persistent problem faced by post-colonial states. In the second half of the course, we will investigate three case studies: the post-colonial Democratic Republic of Congo, the political economy of disease in Africa, and development quandaries and resource conflicts.

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: • A working, general knowledge of Africa’s recent history and of scholarly debates over the analysis and presentation of that history. • A deeper understanding of specific topics within African history. • The ability to read scholarly discussions 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. • The skills to write persuasively about specific topics and provide evidence to support their arguments.

Course Materials


Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2023, Fall 2024