New Course in African History

Spring 2014

HIAF 3559 (1)

New Course in African History

"Decolonization and its Aftermath in Africa"

John P. Cann

Colonial Africa was in part the result of an irrational scramble by the European powers to acquire territory in a largely unexplored continent in the fear that they would be missing out on unknown treasures. Following the Berlin Conference of 1885 there were suddenly thirty new colonies and protectorates, 10 million square miles of new territory, and 110 million new, dazed subjects. Each of the five rival nations Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal, with Spain picking up some scrapshad varying experiences and fought some of the bloodiest and costliest wars in their history over control of these possessions. The colonial cake shattered in the 1960s and became the 48 independent nations of Africa today, many riven with conflict or simply failed enterprises. The course will address the continent in four relatively integrated areas: The Maghreb, West Africa, Southern and Austral Africa, and the Horn of Africa. In each case the opening sessions will give the student a foundation in the colonial origins and geography of the area before exploring the trauma of decolonizationa crisis in most cases for both the colonial power and the colony itself. Finally the course will address the present friction in the area, its causes, and its trajectory before moving to the next area.

HIAF 3559 is an introduction to the security issues of Africa. The instructor will open each session with a lecture and then use the balance of the class for discussion, questions, random quizzes, illustrative film strips, and the like. The course will cover key trouble areas on the continent and provide an opportunity to explore such countries as Nigeria and its oil, criminal, and insurgency problems, such non-countries as Somalia with its pirate and insurgency problems, and The Sahel with its lawless smuggling. Course grading will center on two research papers that together are designed to satisfy the second writing requirement. Each paper will be on a topic of the student’s choice with topic and research guidance from the instructor. Occasional quizzes and class discussion will add positively to the mix, and consistent preparation is expected. While each paper will count for 35% of the course, and the 30% balance will be determined by class participation and quizzes, the instructor reserves the discretion to weigh a student’s performance favorably in favor of his stronger contributions.

The reading assignments will average between 75 and 125 pages per week and open with selections from The Scramble for Africa (Pakenham), The River Congo (Forbath), and King Leopold’s Ghost (Hochschild) and follow with selections from The Fate of Africa (Meredith). When examining the policies of specific European countries in decolonization, there will be select readings from France in Black Africa (McNamara), End of Empire (Lapping), and Portugal’s War in Angola, 1961-1974 (van der Waals). For post decolonization there will be select readings from The Rhodesian War (Moorcraft and McLaughlin), Renamo: Terrorism in Mozambique (Vines), and A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 (Horne). Readings on modern African conflict may be taken from France in Centrafrique (Baxter), Mau Mau (Baxter) Great Lakes Holocaust (Cooper), Great Lakes Conflagration (Cooper), AMISOM (Stewart), Somalia (Baxter), and Battle for Mozambique (Emerson). For the current security issues of Nigerian crime, Al Shabab and piracy in Somalia, and narcotics smuggling through West Africa and across the Sahara to Morocco and Europe, there will be select writings by the instructor.  All assigned readings will be available on UVaCollab.

There are no formal prerequisites for HIAF 3559. The course assumes that you have only a casual acquaintance with Africa, although those with a deeper experience with the continent are welcome. 

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
Nau Hall - South Lawn
Charlottesville, VA 22904

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