African history for beginners
Time: 10:30 - 12:00
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
Course Code: HWH59
Duration: 5 sessions (over 5 weeks)
What is the course about?
There are five major themes of modern African History covered in five weeks:
We shall illustrate each major theme with case studies, from the European Scramble to the Rwandan genocide. Other themes such as Afrocentrism, agency, colonialism, women’s rights, and labour relations are included too, but will be covered in multiple sessions as integral parts of the course.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
‘Knowledge’ asks what we know about Africa and, importantly, how we know it. It takes a historiographical view of the continent and addresses the nature of sources. Our case studies shall be precolonial African state-builders.
‘Wealth’ looks at the political economy of Africa. We shall explore how Africans and non-Africans have used land and labour to generate wealth, be it to meet their needs or gratify their greed. Our case study shall be Leopold’s Congo.
‘Identity’ focuses on two questions: How do Europeans think of Africans, and how do Africans think of themselves? The key ideas are race, tribe, ethnicity, gender and nationalism. The Rwandan genocide will be our case study.
‘Violence’ asks questions about the wars and conflicts in Africa in recent history. We shall explore precolonial warfare, European conquest, Africa’s experience of World War Two, anti-colonial violence and Cold War proxy conflicts. Our case studies shall be the South African Border War and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in Congo.
‘Statehood’ attempts to unify everything we have learned into an understanding of African governments. We shall consider failed states, dictators and power vacuums by exploring a range of examples to the present day, particularly warlordism in Somalia and Sierra Leone.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
-Describe modern Africa in a broad context.
-Discuss the dominant narratives of Africa; especially those which characterise the continent as an under-developed ‘basket-case’, or which consider Africans themselves as incapable of organisation or self-government.
- Critique the role of Western powers and their relations with Africa, be they historical or current.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This course is introductory and open to all learners. No prior knowledge of Africa is required, although it is very much welcomed.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
The classes will be a combination of lectures given by the tutor and class discussions driven by the students. There will be one piece of optional reading per week. Students will be asked to briefly summarise what they have learned from the reading, guided by the tutor. This will allow students to hear about a wide variety of sources from their peers and will encourage the class to work through the course as a team.
Students can opt-out of weekly readings, but they may get less out of the course if they do.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Students will find it easier if they make notes on the lectures and readings, but this is not required.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
Please look at our range of African History courses online.
James studied at the University of Warwick and the London School of Economics, specialising in empires, colonialism and globalisation. He finished top of his class in African history and his postgraduate thesis explored the Central African Federation, focusing on the political economy of the British Empire after WWII. Today, he researches state power, propaganda and economic crises and their relationships to violence, consent and rebellion. In 2018, James began a fellowship with Google, during which he was placed at the Times newspaper in London, before training as a journalist with the NCTJ. He has worked as a reporter for a local paper in Essex and as an English tutor in East London. At City Lit, James teaches courses on political economy, African history and British imperialism. He believes education should be available to all and encourages a diversity of ideas in the classroom. For James, education is about scrutinising the systems around us and imagining alternative ways to live.
Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.