Contemporary African History module (HY32035)

The module covers some of the key themes in twentieth century African history including colonialism, decolonisation, African nationalism, and democratisation.

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Africa is often incorrectly perceived as being a single entity. This module allows for an insight into the enormous variations seen across the continent in regards to the emerging powers, divergent political systems, economic trends and impacts of globalisation. A focus on Africa enables you to analyse the enormous global changes of the twentieth century, examining international economic, political, and social development.

This module surveys some of the key historic developments across the African continent during the twentieth century.

By paying close attention to these interactions, global themes can be examined from non-Western perspectives, including decolonisation, liberation movements, Cold War conflicts, state formation, and post-colonial governance, through a range of case-studies.

A unique part of this module is where you will have the opportunity to edit Wikipedia as one of your assignments to improve the content of an article covering an African theme. You will be able to develop and enhance your editing skills, while using your knowledge from the module, to have a much wider public impact for your work.

What you will learn

In this module you will:

  • develop an understanding of the racial dynamics of colonial rule and subjugation
  • explore nationalism in African nations
  • assess processes of decolonisation
  • examine the ideological visions for the future of the continent beyond structural and hierarchal racism and colonialism
  • learn about various liberation struggles waged against white-minority rule
  • gain an understanding of political conflict and democratisation in African nations

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the political and economic variances in the experience of modern African states,
  • develop a knowledge of how international factors have influenced the course of African history, and crucially vice versa
  • have the ability to relate specific case studies and examples of political and social change to broader thematic issues
  • gain an awareness and knowledge of the continent’s history and shared experiences which have profoundly affected Africa today

Assignments / assessment

  • essay 3,000 words (40%)
  • Wikipedia editing project (20%)
  • final exam (40%)

Teaching methods / timetable

Teaching and learning material are provided through:

  • mini pre-recorded lectures
  • workshops
  • skills training sessions
Weeks Topics
1 Perceptions, challenges, and debates
2 African colonial legacies
3 The process of decolonisation
4 Imagining African Futures
5 The Mau Mau rebellion
Nationalism, ethnicity, and decolonisation
6 The Cold War and the “crisis” of decolonisation
Lumumba and the Congo, 1960
7 Power and politics in independent Africa
8 Economic (in)dependence? Structural Adjustment in the 1980s
9 South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy
10 Post-Cold War Africa
Democratisation and conflict
11 Africa Rising? 
Globalisation and marginalisation


This module is available on following courses: