HISTORY 247 - Modern Africa
Section: 001
Term: WN 2010
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
Requirements & Distribution:
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:

This course provides an introduction to African history in the 19th and 20th century, which will help you UNDERSTAND AFRICA TODAY. It will cover

  • the end of the export trade in slavery and legitimate commerce;
  • partition and conquest;
  • literacy and interwar Africa;
  • development politics since the end of World War II;
  • decolonization and African intellectuals;
  • Cold War Africa and dictatorial excess;
  • post-1989, neoliberal Africa, including wars, AIDS, election violence, despair, and humanitarian economies; and
  • the arrival of the Chinese and new kinds of extraction in minerals and offshore oil.

Throughout we will think about youth, gender, and race; and Africans producing art, music, youth, ideas, letters, websites, theater, hiphop, ritual, and funerals.

Features of the course are the following:

  1. MEETING AS A CLASS, with two lectures a week, where that week’s reading will be outlined, reviewed, critiqued, and supplemented; one section a week, where that week’s primary sources will be discussed.

    • one straightforward work in modern African history — Richard J. Reid, A History of Modern Africa (Wiley-Blackwell 2009);
    • one personal memoir and historical thought piece by a British journalist (for the Economist) who has worked in Africa for years and tries to come to terms with why Africa is so compelling, why it has been such a postcolonial mess, and why there is room for hope — Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles (Public Affairs 2009);
    • one hilarious novel by an African writer written in 1956 (Ferdinand Oyono, Houseboy (1956);
    • other mostly digital sources: primary sources and short stories AS primary sources; and National Geographic Wall Map of Africa.

  3. LEARNING IS DOING, LEARNING IS EXPLORING. An emphasis on exploration, 20 percent of your grade will be about how to find Africa from Ann Arbor, with several choices, including
    1. three fantastic African music concerts at UMS;
    2. a wall map hung to your wall, and keeping track of Africa’s geography throughout the term;
    3. visit African art galleries in the area; and
    4. volunteer among African immigrants at the Freedom House.
    LEARNING IS DOING in other ways as well, including keeping a blog instead of a class log; and prepare for some sections with a short text for all to read and critique and/or lead discussion.

  4. HISTORY AS CRAFT: TOUCH IT, FEEL IT, SHAPE IT. An emphasis on primary sources that open hidden aspects of history to your historical imagination. Students will read Liberian-authored letters from the 19th century and write a short paper about them.


  1. map quiz, 10%
  2. midterm, 20 %
  3. final, 25%
  4. active participation, 15%
  5. short paper on primary sources, 10%

HISTORY 247 - Modern Africa
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
TuTh 11:30AM - 1:00PM
Note: Students are auto-enrolled in lecture when they elect a discussion.
002 (DIS)
Tu 1:00PM - 2:00PM
003 (DIS)
Tu 3:00PM - 4:00PM
004 (DIS)
W 10:00AM - 11:00AM
005 (DIS)
W 11:00AM - 12:00PM
006 (DIS)
22LSA Hnrs
Tu 3:00PM - 4:00PM
Note: Section 006: Reserved for LSA Honors only
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

Texts are: 1) Richard Reid, A History of Modern Africa (Oxford); 2) Richard Dowden, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles; 3) Ferdinand Oyono, Houseboy; and 4) a National Geographic Classic Wall Map of Africa. 
Other documents and short stories will be available on C-Tools. Books available at Ulrich's.
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for HISTORY 247 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi
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