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Africa in Question: Ancient & Pre-colonial Africa between the Past & Present

HST2044F (not offered in 2019)

Convener: Associate Professor S Jeppie

Course entry requirements: At least two courses in historical, social science or cultural studies offered by the Faculty of Humanities, or by permission of the Head of Department.

What is Africa and what might its ancient and pre-colonial pasts tell us about present African realities? Despite the passage of time, some stubborn Eurocentric myths about Africa as an “Other,” pathological, dominated by unchanging “tribal” traditions and customs, isolated from world development and without or beyond history persist. In short, a “dark continent.” How do we challenge these imaginations and representations without merely finding European equivalents and glorious histories of kings and queens, civilisation and states while the meaning of history remains unquestioned? This course explores the emergence of African societies from pre-history to the eve of European colonisation in the late nineteenth century. Using a number of regional histories and relying on primary and secondary sources and documentary films, the course begins with explorations of African historiographies over time, human origins, the interactions of humans and geography, Ancient Egypt and Nubia, state formation and social organisation, the development of long-distance trade networks and cross-cultural contacts, the nature and impact of slavery and the slave trade in Africa. The course aims to equip students with a critical appreciation of Africa’s complex pasts that go well beyond the so-called truths of colonial historiography.

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