Survey of african history

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1Wilfrid Laurier University
HI 229

Fall Term 2012

Instructor: Dr. John Laband


Office: DAWB 2-116

Office hours: Tuesdays, 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Thursdays 1.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m.

Office telephone: 519 – 884 0710 ext. 3331

  • Course Description

Not unnaturally, Canadian students are largely unfamiliar with the history of Africa. As a continent, Africa is commonly perceived – and consequently discounted – by many people of the developed world as the unfortunate victim of colonialism and subsequent underdevelopment, its unhappy situation exacerbated by its own political, economic and ecological follies. Yet any generalised negative characterisation of Africa as a whole is inappropriate, for Africa is a vast, ancient continent exhibiting staggering diversities in terms of topography, climate, biological and zoological forms, human populations, religions and beliefs, social customs, economic activities and political organisations.

History 229 is offered as an introductory survey designed to acquaint students with the wide sweep of African history from earliest times to the present in the context of Africa’s encounters with the wider world, and to familiarise them with some of the methodological and interpretative problems associated with studying it.

  • Course Structure

The course is divided into eight topics that will be covered in two lectures a week (24 in total) of 80 minutes each. The background reading for each topic is based on the textbook, Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, and is specified below in the course syllabus.

  • Readings

Gilbert, Erik, and Jonathan T. Reynolds. Africa in World History from Prehistory to the Present,

3rd edn. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson, 2012.

Berkeley, Bill. The Graves Are Not Yet Full: Race, Tribe and Power in the Heart of Africa. New

York: Basic Books, 2002.

Recommended for supplementary reading and reference:
[Note that there are many other relevant books available on the open shelves in the WLU Library and in the Dana Porter Library at the University of Waterloo close by. The University of Guelph also possesses many works on Africa, and these can be ordered through Trellis. The call numbers for the largest sections of books on African history are DT 1 – DT 3410, starting with general histories and progressing though regional histories, and JQ 1872 – 3754.]
Bohannan, Paul, and Philip Curtin. Africa and Africans, 4th ed. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland

Press, 1995.

Cooper, Frederick. Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Crowder, Michael, and Ajayi, J.F. Ade, eds. Historical Atlas of Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Curtin, Philip, Steven Feierman, Leonard Thompson and Jan Vansina. African History from Earliest Times to Independence, 2nd ed. London and New York: Longman, 1995.

Davidson, Basil. Modern Africa: A Social and Political History, 3rd ed. Harlow: Longman, 1994.

Fage, J.D., and Roland Oliver, eds. The Cambridge History of Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975-86, 8 vols.

Fage, J.D., with William Tordoff. A History of Africa, 4th ed. London: Routledge, 2002.

Iliffe, John. Africans: The History of a Continent. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Isichei, Elizabeth. A History of African Societies to 1870. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Louis, Wm Roger, editor-in-chief. The Oxford History of the British Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001; especially vols 3-5.

Lovejoy, Paul E. Transformations in Slavery: A History of Slavery in Africa, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Martin, Phyllis M. and Patrick O’Meara. Africa, 3rd ed. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995.

1Meredith, Martin. The Fate of Africa from the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair: A

History of 50 Years of Independence. New York: PublicAffairs, 2007.

Oliver, Roland. The African Experience. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1991.

Oliver, Roland and Anthony Atmore. Medieval Africa 1250-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 2001.

Oliver, Roland and Anthony Atmore. Africa since 1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Oliver, Roland and J.D. Fage. A Short History of Africa. London: Penguin Books, 1995.

Reader, John. Africa: A Biography of the Continent. London: Penguin, 1998.

Robinson, David. Muslim Societies in African History, 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Shillington, Kevin. History of Africa, revised ed. London: Macmillan, 1995.

UNESCO. The General History of Africa. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981-91, 8 vols.

[Note that the journals listed below will be especially useful in finding reviews for your book review assignment.]

Africa Report

African Studies

Canadian Journal of African Studies

Journal of African History

Journal of Asian and African Studies

Journal of Modern African Studies

Journal of Southern African Studies
[Note that for contemporary African history it is essential to keep up with rapidly developing current affairs through newspapers and radio reports.]

  • Videos

WLU Media Technology Resources holds a number of video films on various aspects of African history. These can be viewed on application. Especially recommended is:

The Story of a Continent: Africa. Written and presented by Basil Davidson. 1984. 8 programs.

Program 1: Different but Equal

Program 2: Mastering a Continent V2706

Program 3: Caravans of Gold

Program 4: Kings and Cities V2707

Program 5: The Bible and the Gun

Program 6: This Magnificent African Cake V2708

Program 7: The Rise of Nationalism

Program 8: The Legacy V2709

  • Mid-Term Examination

Date: 23 October 2012

Duration: 1 hour

Venue: DAWB 2-106

Content: Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, chapters 7, 8, 11, 13

Format: Map test; identifications and short essay. Further details are given at the end of this document on pp. 12-15.

Value: 25 percent of the final grade

  • Critical Book Review

Date Due: 22 November 2009

Length: Six (6) pages including title page, footnotes and bibliography

Format: Double-spaced in 11- or 12-point with conventional margins

Value: 35 percent of the final grade
Instructions: Write a critical book review of Berkeley, The Graves Are Not Yet Full (prescribed book).

(1)You must consult and integrate one full book review which may come from an academic journal or from a newspaper of record.

(2) You must consult Martin Meredith, The Fate of Africa and Frederick Cooper, Africa since 1940 (both books are on Short Loan) to assess how their arguments (not factual details) differ from or substantiate Berkeley’s thesis.

(3) You must also consult and integrate the relevant chapters in Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History (prescribed book) and refer to them to verify the accuracy of Berkeley’s account.

The bibliography should include full information on the book being reviewed, the review you employed and the other sources you consulted. N.B. Attach photocopies of the review you used to your own review.

Helpful hints: To find suitable reviews in scholarly journals and serious newspapers you should employ available electronic databases.
Note: (a) If you are having genuine difficulties in tracking down a book review, ask a librarian for guidance.
(b) If you are the slightest bit unsure about whether the book review you have selected is appropriate, ask me about it at the end of lectures or during my office hours.
Assessment: You will be assessed in a number of areas.
(1) Since the choice of the review is yours, you will be marked on your judgment and skill in making your selection.
(2) You will be assessed (a) on your analytical ability in understanding and

evaluating Berkeley’s argument, (b) on how effectively you have deployed and integrated the professional reviewer’s assessments of the book, (c) on how well you

have grasped and related Meredith’s and Cooper’s arguments to Berkeley’s , and (d) on how thoroughly you have verified Berkeley’s the historical accuracy against the information in Gilbert and Reynolds.
(3) For your review to merit good marks, it must be well structured, closely argued and clearly expressed in correct grammatical form. The technical apparatus of footnotes and references must be meticulous and accord with accepted practices.
Writing advice: It is strongly recommended that you consult a manual like Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing History, 6th ed. (Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010) for guidance on the conventions of history writing and on how to cite sources correctly. If you employ a citation convention other than Rampolla’s, it must be consistent and accurate.
Electronic Submission
You must submit one copy of the written assignment (not photocopies of the reviews) in electronic form to the HI229 dropbox on MyLearningSpace as well as turning in a hard copy with a photocopy of the review attached. No mark will be recorded for an essay which is not submitted to the dropbox. Essays in the dropbox will automatically be forwarded to to be checked for plagiarism.
Late Assignments
Extensions will be granted only in exceptional circumstances and for compassionate reasons. Late assignments will be penalised at the rate of 3% per day, including weekends. No late assignment will be accepted after the final examination has been written.

  • Final Examination

Scope: All topics covered in lectures and readings

Value: 40% of the final grade

  • Summary of Assignments, Due Dates and Grading

Mid-term examination 25%

Comparative book review 35%

Final examination 40%

TOTAL 100%

1. Students with disabilities or special needs are advised to contact Laurier's Accessible Learning Office for information regarding its services and resources. Students are encouraged to review the Calendar for information regarding all services available on campus.
2. Students are expected to be aware of and abide by University regulations and policies, as outlined in the current Undergraduate and Graduate Calendar
3. Students must reserve the examination period as stated in the Undergraduate Calendar under Academic Dates. If you are considering registering for a special examination or event, you should select a time outside the examination period. Consult with the Undergraduate Calendar for special circumstances for examination deferral.
4. The penalties for plagiarism or any form of academic misconduct are severe and enforced at all times. The Student Code of Conduct and Discipline, and the procedures for investigating and determining appropriate disciplinary measures for breaches of the Code are given in the current Undergraduate and Graduate Calendar. Wilfrid Laurier University uses software that can check for plagiarism. Students may be required to submit their written work in electronic form and have it checked for plagiarism.
5. Students are to adhere to the Principles in the Use of Information Technology . These Principles and resulting actions for breaches are stated in the current Undergraduate and Graduate Calendar.
6. Students' names may be divulged in the classroom, both orally and in written form, to other members of the class. Students who are concerned about such disclosures should contact the course instructor to identify whether there are any possible alternatives to such disclosures. Additional information on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act at Laurier is available at the Privacy Coordinator Office

A: The Study of Africa

B: What is Africa?

Who invented Africa?

The perspectives of European colonizers, Pan-Africanists and Africans

The perspectives of the Islamic world

1) North Africa

2) The Sudan

3) The Swahili coast

4) The image of Africa in the Islamic world

What should be included in Africa?

C: Africa in the World

Perceptions of Africa

1) Marginal

2) Broken

3) Primitive

4) Wild and dangerous

5) Exotic

6) Unspoiled

7) Idealized

Finding a balance

“Appropriation” anxieties

D: The African Environment and History

Environmental history and Africa

Environment and population in Africa

1) A physical profile of the continent

2) Ecological zones

3) Endemic diseases

4) The effects on human habitation

5) “Islands” of economic development and seas of under-employment

6) The pitfalls of ecological determinism

The ever-changing landscape of Africa

1) The introduction of exotic foods and the movement of livestock

2) The Sahara Desert
READING: Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, xxi-xxiv, 4-13, 98-138
A: Was Cleopatra Black?

Ancient Egypt

The traditional image of Cleopatra

Black Athena

The evidence

B: Who Are the Africans?

Who might be included?

Is there an African “race”?

1) Human evolution

2) The multi-regional model

3) The “African Eve” theory

4) The “Out of Africa” model

African diversity

1) The array of African languages

Four language families

The Bantu-speaking migration

Iron technology

Diffusion rather than conquest

2) The multiplicity of African cultures

3) The range of African religions

4) The variety of state forms

Diversity and fusion

Who are the “authentic” Africans?

C: A Single African People?



The complexities of African identity

The problem of “tribe”

READING: Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, 14-84
A: The Colonial View of African History

Great Zimbabwe

The Dark Continent

19th century racial stereotyping

B: The Modern Academic Discipline of African History

Is there such a thing as specifically African history?

African history and the struggle against colonialism

The historians’ diaspora

Who has the write to study or write African history?

C: The Evidence

Conventional sources

Written sources

Oral sources

1) Fixed and free oral traditions

2) Functionalist and structuralist traditions

3) Periodisation in oral history

4) Chronology in oral history

5) Comparative traditions

D: Interdisciplinary Approaches

Palaeontology and archaeology

Historical linguistics


Art history

E: The Challenges to “Doing” History in Africa

A: Traditional Institutions and Modernity

The persistence of African institutions

Diversity and common features of African societies

B: Kinship and the Household


The household

The division of labour



Lineage and community

Royal lineages and chiefdoms

C: Age Ranking


D: Gender and the Division of Labour

“Appropriate” functions

Food production

The farming household

Specialist occupations

E: The Ancestors

The community of the living and the dead

F: Gods and Spirits



G: Misfortune and its Control



H: Royal Authority and the Supernatural

The insignia of power

I: Syncretic faiths


Church of Nazareth

A: The Barbary Coast: The Invisible Slave Trade

B: Approaches to the African Slave Trade

African, Muslim and European slavers

C: Definitions of Slavery

Slaves as property

Slaves as outsiders

Slavery and coercion

Slavery and sexuality

A commodity requiring replenishment

Slavery as an institution

D: Slavery in Africa

Slavery and the homestead economy

Slavery and dependent kinship

Institutionalized African slavery prior to the international slave trade?

E: Muslims and African Slavery

Institutionalized slavery and the Islamic world

Muslims, pagans and African slavery

The growth of the Muslim slave trade

F: The East African Slave Trade

East coast slaves for export

Suppliers from the hinterland

Zanzibar and the 19th century slave trade

Slaves for porterage

Tippu Tip’s slave kingdom

G: Slavery in Africa Today




H: The Atlantic Slave Trade

Origins and nature

Scale and focus of supply

African control of supply

War, slavery and African state formation

Consequences for Africa

I: The Ending of the Atlantic Slave Trade

Reasons for the abolition of the slave trade: material or ideological?

1) Declining profitability

2) Public opinion

Enforcing the abolition of the slave trade

J: “Legitimate Commerce” and the Former Slave Coast

African states and the economic challenge of legitimate commerce

Legitimate commerce and the increase of internal African slavery

The effects of European economic competition

K: Settlements for Freed Slaves

Sierra Leone

READING: Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, 143-74, 183-98, 238-9.

A: Christian Missionaries in the Pre-Colonial Era

Roman Catholics


B: The Evangelical Revival and the Missionary Impact up to the Late 19th Century

Bringing light to the benighted

Improving the primitive

Adapting the Christian message for Africa

Cultural translation

The limited missionary impact up to the 1870s

C: Missionaries: The Agents of Imperialism?

D: Exploration

Commerce, civilization and Christianity

The paradoxical nature of African exploration

Explorers and their motives

The heart of Africa

E: The Scramble for Africa

The age of imperialism

No monocausal explanations for the partition of Africa

The imperial power’s varied motives for the partition of Africa

The Berlin Conference 1884 – 1885

F: Pre-Colonial African Armies

Types of armies



Strategy, tactics and leadership

G: The European Invaders

Military technology: the key to conquest?

The instruments of conquest

1) African colonial troops

2) Doctrine

3) Logistical capability

4) Fortifications

H: Interpretation of African Resistance

“Romantic reactionaries”

Active players and not simply victims

The resistance continuum

Inflation of the concept of resistance
READING: Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, 262- 85

A: The Colonial Administration

The aims of colonial administration


The consolidation of colonial rule

B: White Settlement

Categories of settlement

Racism and its consequences


Political power

The South African exception

C: The Colonial Economy

Economic development

1) Balancing the colonial budget

2) Resource endowment

3) Capital investment and technical expertise

4) Agricultural development

5) Irrigation and transportation

Africa’s distorted colonial export economy

D: The Impact of the Colonial Economy on the People of Africa

Rural society

Labour migration


1) The move to the towns

2) Ties between city and countryside

3) Urban lifestyle

Demographic change

E: The Reasons for Decolonization from the Perspective of the Colonial Powers

The Second World War and its Consequences

The escalating cost of empire

F: The Intellectual Foundations of African Independence


1) Islam

2) Christianity

3) Independent churches

4) Millenarian movements


Political ideologies

1) Nationalism

2) Pan-Africanism

3) Socialism

4) Democracy

G: Mobilizing Resistance to Colonial Rule

Women’s action

Economic action

1) Consumers

2) Producers

3) Trade unions

H: Political Parties and Independence Movements

Organization challenges

The transition from elite to mass parties

I: The Gaining of Independence
READING: Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, 286-378
A: The Political Kingdom


Post-independence panaceas and realities

B: Post-Independence Political Challenges

Secure democratic government

International boundaries and artificial nations

International relations

C: The Role of Ideology

African socialism

African capitalism


D: Authoritarian Rule

One-party regimes

Military rule

E: The Political Consequences of Economic Decline and Dependency

Economic “free-fall”

Enforced economic reform

Rising demands for democratic reform

A swing back to democratic government?

The spectre of anarchy

F: The Future?
READING: Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, 379-415

HI 229

Mid-Term Examination, Fall Term 2012

23 October 2012
In the Mid-Term Examination you will be required to answer the indicated number of questions in each section from the much larger number listed below. Thus, for example, while you have to learn 45 geographical places in Section A, only 10 will be listed for the exam.
The material for the exam will be found in Gilbert and Reynolds, Africa in World History, chapters 7, 8, 11, 13. Also consult the maps 7-1, 7-2, 7-3, 7-4, 7-6, 7-7, 8-1, 11-1, 11-2, and 13-1 for Section A, and the Glossary on pp. 416-27 for Section B.
A: Map questions
On a blank map of Africa, be prepared in the Mid-Term Examination to name or place ten of the 45 following:
Rivers (5)





Lakes (4)




Seas and Oceans (4)





Islands (4)




Cities (16)



Cape Town













Kingdoms and Empires (12)

Almoravid Empire in Africa


Hausa states



Mahdist Sudan


Orange Free State

Ottoman Empire in Africa

Sokoto Caliphate


B: Identifications

In no more than five lines be prepared in the Mid-Term Examination to explain or identify seven of the 35 following terms, states, groups and people:

Terms (13)



Dar al-Islam











States (3)

Almoravid state

Fatimid Caliphate

Ottoman Empire

Groups (6)


Fulani (Fulbe)




People (11)

Abd al-Qadir

Ibn Battuta

Mansa Musa



Muhammad Ali




Umar Tal

Usman dan Fodio

Crops (2)



C: Short Essay

In a short essay of no more than one page and a half, be prepared in the Mid-Term Examination to answer a question on any one of the following 4 topics:

  1. In what ways did the spread of Islam differ between North Africa and the West African savannah in the period encompassing the 7th to 16th centuries C.E.?

  1. “It was the sea and the monsoon that defined the Swahili civilization of the East African coast between 1000 and 1500 C.E.” Discuss.

  1. Account for the steady expansion of European colonial power over the Ottoman Empire in Africa and other North African states between 1500 and 1880 C.E.

4. “Perhaps the main difference between the late-eighteen and early-nineteenth century second-stage Boer expansion into southern Africa and the earlier first stage was that the Africans whom they encountered in the second stage lived in large and highly militarized states, quite different from those of the Khoikhoi.” Discuss.

Mark Allocation in the Mid-Term Examination:
A: Map. Ten questions at one mark per answer = 10

B: Identifications. Seven questions at five marks per answer = 35

C: Short essay. One-and-a-half page answer = 55

Total = 100


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