Walsh School of Foreign Service

HIST-112 -Africa II

Meredith McKittrick (new window) Mon 9:30 AM-10:45 AM

This course is required for the undergraduate certificate 

This course examines the history of modern Africa from the 19th century to the present. We will explore major political, economic, social, religious and environmental changes on the continent, but we will also think about how historical knowledge is created and how historians assess evidence about the past.

The first goal of this course is for you to acquire historical background to contemporary Africa. By looking at general patterns as well as specific places and events, we’ll examine some of the major themes in Africa’s recent history. We’ll study Africa’s role in the 19th-century global economy and the political and social impacts of this early globalization; European conquest of the continent and African resistance to European domination; the political and economic impact of colonialism; major cultural, social and religious changes of the early 20th century; and how independence from colonialism was achieved and what it meant. Then we’ll turn to the era of independent African nations and explore the historical context of some of the issues facing present-day Africa. We also will examine dynamics of age, gender, class, and ethnicity within African societies. And throughout the class, we will consider how Africans have acted to create their own history within the context of larger global and historical forces they do not control.

A second goal of the class is for you to begin to think about the origins of knowledge: to ask how we know what we think we know. What do terms such as “African” and “European” mean in practice, and what do they obscure? How has “the West” created knowledge about “Africa,” and what are the implications of this?

A third goal is to think and write like historians. We will ask questions and explore puzzles about the past. With Africa serving as the context, you will practice the art of historical analysis. Questions we will ask throughout this class include: Why did something happen when it happened and what were its consequences? How have unequal relations of power shaped the kinds of historical evidence we have today, and how can we interpret that evidence? To what extent can history explain the world we now share?