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Africa before 1900:
A continent without a history?

Staff contact: Dr Peter Musgrave

This module will consider the Economic and Social History (and the Political History as far as it is relevant) of Africa south of the Sahara in the period before the formal establishment of European rule in the last decade of the nineteenth century.  Although material will be drawn from the whole continent, the mass of material will be concerned with West Africa (from Cape Verde to the Cameroon) and East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and the Rift Valley).  Students will be encouraged, however, to develop interests they may have in other areas.

Two major themes and questions will be central.  The first is that of the nature of African economies and societies and the nature and possibility of change within them without external pressure.  The second is the nature of external pressure-- both European and Arab -- on African societies and their response to it.

Underlying the course will be the question of the nature of Development, particularly in a non-European context and of the means by which development can be brought about.  Students will be encouraged to think about this theme throughout the module and the first essay, and the tutorials related to it, will be specifically concerned with this question.

By the end of the module you should have a broad understanding of African Development in the years before European Rule and of the nature and types of African economic and social systems.  Your studies will also encourage you to question some of the major assumptions many economic and social historians make about the nature and direction of development itself.

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Last updated: 15 October 2002
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