Trent university department of history

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History 4410

Rebellions and Civil Wars in Sub-Saharan Africa

Instructor: Prof. T. Stapleton

Office: 201 Crawford House TC

Phone: 748-1011 - extension 7841


Office Hours: Wednesday 1400-1550.
This course examines the history of violent conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa from the era of resistance to colonial conquest in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century to the liberation struggles of the 1960s and 70s to the civil wars of today’s post-Cold War era. It will look at various issues related to war and society in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is a research seminar in which students will write papers, present them to the class for discussion and then rewrite their papers based on that experience.
During the Fall semester there will be seminars on assigned readings that begin with the historiography of resistance in colonial Africa and then focus on in depth discussions of the examples of the 1905 Maji Maji rebellion in German East Africa and the 1952-56 Mau Mau Emergency in British ruled Kenya. During this time students are expected to work on their research proposals and the first draft of their research papers. In the second half of the Fall semester students will hand in their research proposals and make a short presentation to the class on what they intend to work on for the research paper.
The Winter semester will consist of regularly scheduled seminars where students will present the first drafts of their papers to the group. Students will make their papers available to the rest of the class on WebCT at least one week before presentation. Every student is expected to prepare for class by reading the papers to be presented that week. In addition, every student will be assigned to critique another student’s paper/presentation. This critique will take place immediately after the student research paper presentation and will be followed by an open and detailed discussion by the entire group. The aim of this exercise is that students (with the guidance of the instructor) help each other to improve their papers for submission as a final draft at the end of the course.

Wednesday 1200-1350 (TC – Wallis 102)


Research Proposal 10%

Proposal Presentation 10%

Critique (oral and written) 10%

Paper (1st draft) 20%

Paper Presentation 10%

Paper (final) 20%

Participation 20%


Submit research proposals – 9 November

Submit research papers (1st draft) – see Winter Semester schedule (January-March)

Submit final drafts of research papers – 4 April


This must be around 1000 words long. The proposal must briefly explain your topic, raise important questions and provide a preliminary bibliography of sources you want to look at. This document (hardcopy) is submitted to the instructor only.


During the first semester each students will give a short oral summary of his/her proposal to the class and be prepared to respond to questions. This presentation should take about 10 minutes.


Each student will be assigned to critique the presentation and first draft of another student’s research paper. The critique is meant to raise important questions and issues and to stimulate further discussion by the class. It must be based on a thorough reading of the paper being presented and a good understanding of the issues involved. Preparing for the critique will require reading appropriate secondary sources beyond the student paper. The critique consists of an oral component in front of the entire group (usually a 10 minute presentation which can include questions after the main research presentation) and a 500 word written piece submitted only to the instructor.


At the start of the seminar, the student will take around 20-30 minutes to highlight the main points of his/her paper (first draft). The student will have the opportunity to respond to the questions and points raised by the critique and subsequent discussion. The first draft of the research paper must be posted on WebCT at least one week prior to this presentation.


This is the version of the research paper that is circulated to the entire group (including the instructor) at least one week prior to presentation. It should be around 4000 words long, and have footnotes/endnotes and a bibliography. Students are responsible posting their paper on WebCT at least one week prior to their presentation. A hardcopy should be provided to the instructor.


This is the final version of the research paper and is handed in to the instructor at the end of the course. It should be around 5000 words long, and have footnotes/endnotes and a bibliography. It must show improvement over the first draft. Students who present later in the Winter semester may request an extension on the 4 April due date. It should be handed in as a hardcopy.


Every student is expected to have read the assigned articles or student papers that are being presented to the class (available on WebCT) and to ask questions or make comments during the discussions.


During the Fall semester, readings for discussion listed below are available on JSTOR which can be accessed through the Trent University website via the library section. During the Winter semester, student research papers will be posted on WebCT.

Note: During the Winter semester additional readings may be assigned depending on the number of research presentations. This will be included in the Winter semester timetable. As a guide, there may be one additional article assigned per research presentation.
Fall Semester

14 September – Course introduction

21 September – The Historiography of African Resistance (Colonial and Nationalist Perspectives)

T.O. Ranger, “Connections Between Primary Resistance Movements and Modern Mass Nationalism in East and Central Africa, Part I”, Journal of African History, 9, 3 (1968), pp. 437-453. Also read “Part II”, Journal of African History, 9, 4 (1968), pp. 631-641.

28 September – The Historiography of African Resistance (Social Banditry and Materialist Perspectives – the example of Zimbabwe)

Alan Isaacman, “Social Banditry in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and Mozambique 1894-1907: An Expression of Early Peasant Protest,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 4, 1 (October 1977), pp. 1-30. (JSTOR)

David Beach, “Chimurenga: The Shona Rising of 1896-97”, Journal of African History, 20, 3 (1979), pp. 395-420. (JSTOR)
5 October – The Historiography of African Resistance (Day to Day Resistance and Oral History – the example of Namibia)

Philipp Prein, “Guns and Top Hats: African Resistance in German South West Africa, 1907-1915,” Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 20, No. 1 (March 1994), pp. 99-121.

Jan Bart Gewald, “The Road of the Man Called Love and the Sack of Sero; The Herero-German War and the Export of Herero Labour to the Rand,” Journal of African History, 40 (1999), pp. 21-40.
12 October - Case Study: Maji Maji, German East Africa (today’s Tanzania), 1905

Otto Stallowsky and John W. East, “On the Background to the Rebellion in German East Africa, 1905-06,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 21, No. 4 (1988), pp. 677-696 (originally published in 1912).

John Iliffe, “The Organization of the Maji Maji Rebellion,” Journal of African History, VIII, 3 (1967), pp. 495-512.
19 October - Case Study: Maji Maji

Per Hassing, “German Missionaries and the Maji Maji Rising,” African Historical Studies, Vol. 3, No, 2 (1970), pp. 373-389.

Jamie Monson, “Relocating Maji Maji: The Politics of Alliance and Authority in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, 1870-1917” Journal of African History, 39 (1998), pp. 95-120.
2 November - Case Study: Maji Maji

Thaddeus Sunseri, “Statist Narratives and Maji Maji Ellipses,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 33, Mo. 3 (2000), pp. 567-584.

Felicitas Becker, “Traders, `Big Men’ and Prophets: Political Continuity and Crisis in the Maji Maji Rebellion in Southeast Tanzania,” Journal of African History, 45 (2004), pp. 1-22.
9 November – Comparative Perspectives: Indigenous Resistance in the Americas (Prof. Paula Sherman)

James Gump, “A Spirit of Resistance: Sioux, Xhosa and Maori Responses to Western Dominance, 1840-1920,” Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 66, No. 1 (1998), pp. 21-52.

Hand in research proposals – organize schedule of proposal presentations
16 November – Case Study: Mau Mau, Kenya, 1952-56 (Colonial and Nationalist Views)

A.E. Norman, “The Crime of Mau Mau,” The Australian Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 3 (September 1954), pp. 74-86.

George Padmore, “Behind the Mau Mau,” Phylon, Vol. 14, No. 4 (4th Quarter 1953), pp. 355-372.

Proposal Presentations (last 30 minutes)

23 November – Case Study: Mau Mau (The Mau Mau Debate)

E.S. Atieno-Odhiambo, “The Production of History in Kenya: The Mau Mau Debate,” Canadian Journal of African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (1991), pp. 300-307.

John Lonsdale, “Mau Maus of the Mind: Making Mau Mau and Remaking Kenya,” Journal of African History, Vol. 33, No. 3 (1990), pp. 393-421.

Bruce Berman, “Nationalism, Ethnicity and Modernity: The Paradox of Mau Mau,” Canadian Journal of African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 2 (1991), pp. 181-206.

Proposal Presentations (last 30 minutes)
30 November – Case Study: Mau Mau (Impact and Legacy)

Caroline Elkins, “The Struggle for Mau Mau Rehabilitation in Late Colonial Kenya,” International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1 (2000), pp. 25-57.

Daniel Branch, “Loyalists, Mau Mau and Elections in Kenya: The First Triumph of the System, 1957-58,” Africa Today, Vol. 53, No. 2 (Winter 2006), pp. 27-50.

Proposal Presentations (last 30 minutes)

7 December – Proposal Presentations - Circulation and coordination of presentation timetable for Winter Semester
Winter Semester

11 January – Coordination Meeting (the papers for next week – 18 Jan - should be up on Webct)

18 January to 28 March – see timetable of presentations – papers to be circulated via WebCT.
4 April – Course conclusion - Hand in Final Drafts of Research Papers
Some Suggested Research Topics (many of these could be narrowed down):

The War of Mlanjeni, Cape Colony, 1850-53

The Anglo-Zulu War, Natal, 1879

The Transkei Rebellion, Cape Colony, 1880-81

The Ndebele-Shona Rebellions, Zimbabwe, 1896-97

The Zulu Rebellion, Natal, 1906

The Herero-Nama Rebellion, Namibia, 1904-07

The Chilembwe Rebellion, Malawi, 1915

Rebellions in French West Africa during the First World War

The Boer Rebellion in South Africa, 1914-15

The Igbo Women’s War, Nigeria, 1929

The Mau Mau Uprising, Kenya, 1952-56 (although this is a course case study, the literature is so large that a student could find a topic here)

The Pondoland Uprising, South Africa, 1960

The Sharpeville Massacre, South Africa, 1960

The Congo Crisis, early 1960s

The Nigerian Civil War, 1967-70

Wars of Liberation in one of the Portuguese Colonies: Angola, Mozambique or Guinea-Bissau (1960-74)

Zimbabwe’s War of Liberation, 1965-79

The Soweto Uprising, South Africa, 1976

The Ogaden War, Somalia and Ethiopia, late 1970s

Civil War in Angola, 1975-2002

Civil War in Mozambique, 1975-92

Civil War in Sudan (South Sudan or Darfur)

The Liberian Civil Wars, 1980s – 2000s

The Sierra Leone Civil War, 1990s

The Somalia Civil War, 1990s – present

Conflict and Famine in Ethiopia, 1980s

Genocide in Rwanda, 1994

Burundi’s Civil War

The Fall of Mobutu, Democratic Republic of Congo, 1996-97

Africa’s First World War: The Democratic Republic of Congo, 1998-2002

African Conflict and Natural Resources

The International Arms Trade and African Conflicts

Child Soldiers in African Conflicts

Refugees in African Conflicts
Note: Since we are studying the Maji Maji rebellion during the Fall semester, it will not be available as a research topic.

Course goals:

As a fourth year course, History 4410 provides students with the opportunity to explore a specialized topic, civil wars and rebellions in Sub-Saharan Africa, in depth, both through class discussion of scholarship in the field and through advanced independent research. Students should be able to use their advanced knowledge of the field and skills in critical thinking, historical writing, historical approaches and methodologies, to research a topic in depth using secondary sources, produce an original analytical argument based on the evidence, and situate it in the appropriate historiographical and theoretical contexts. Students should be able to communicate their arguments to the instructor and their peers with clarity, accuracy, and logic through major research papers and class presentations. Students on completing the course successfully should understand the conventions of historical writing, the rules of academic integrity and professionalism, the importance of personal initiative and accountability, and the evolving nature of historical knowledge, and should be able to evaluate historical writing effectively through examinations of sources, arguments, and methodologies.

Academic Integrity: Academic dishonesty, which includes plagiarism and cheating, is an extremely serious academic offence and carries penalties varying from a 0 grade on an assignment to expulsion from the University.  Definitions, penalties, and procedures for dealing with plagiarism and cheating are set out in Trent University’s Academic Integrity Policy. You have a responsibility to educate yourself – unfamiliarity with the policy is not an excuse. You are strongly encouraged to visit Trent’s Academic Integrity website to learn more –
Access to Instruction: It is Trent University’s intent to create an inclusive learning environment. If a student has a disability and/or health consideration and feels that he/she may need accommodations to succeed in this course, the student should contact the Disability Services Office (Blackburn Hall Suite 132; 748-1281; HREF="" MACROBUTTON HtmlResAnchor as soon as possible.

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