History of Africa:


In the 19th Century, European imperial powers conquered the near totality of the African continent and established regimes defined by forced labor, racial segregation, and the violent suppression of dissent. However, Europeans also often portrayed their deeds as a benevolent and liberating bequeathing upon Africans of “civilization, Christianity, and commerce.” Since the wave of decolonization and formal imperial retreat in the second part of the 20th Century, and in the age of non-governmental organizations, the motto of “saving Africa” has become an even more prevalent mode of engagement with the Continent. This course reviews two centuries of foreign interventions in Africa in the name of humanitarian principles, from the abolition of the slave trade to the most recent Ebola crisis in West Africa. We will interrogate the tensions and contradictions among morality and politics, benevolence and self-interest. We will use recent scholarship to discuss these diverse projects and their historical contexts. We will also closely read a set of primary sources – memoirs, newspaper articles, and films – and we will subject them to similar questions: what did Africa need to be saved from? Who were the agents of redemption? What were the effects of the salvation projects? How did Africans react to them? The course also includes two class visits and one Skype call with African artists and activists who interact in their work with the current situation of Africa at the receiving end of aid and humanitarian interventions. These encounters will give students the opportunity to directly discuss the current relevance of the history of humanitarian interventions in Africa with people who are directly concerned by the topic.

This is a course about how Africa got to be where it is now. It covers the period from the beginning of the crisis that shook colonial empires in the 1940s through the coming to power of independent African governments on most of the continent in the 1960s to the fall of the last white regime in South Africa in 1994, by which time the already independent countries of Africa had found themselves in deep crisis. By bridging the conventional divide between ?colonial? and ?independent? Africa, the course opens up questions about the changes in African economies, religious beliefs, family relations, and conceptions of the world around them during the last half century. Students read political and literary writings by African intellectuals as well as the work of scholars based inside and outside Africa, and they view and discuss videos as well. The course emphasizes the multiple meanings of politics?from local to regional to Pan-African levels, and it aspires to give students a framework for understanding the process of social and economic change in contemporary Africa.

Course Information



4 Points

Term Section Instructor Schedule Location

Spring 2018

Pedro Monaville
TR: 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM WAVE 366