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History of sub-Saharan Africa [ LHIST2610 ]

5.0 crédits ECTS  15.0 h   2q 

Teacher(s) Van Schuylenbergh Patricia ;
Language French
of the course

Interest for the past and present African world, openness of mind. Basic knowledge of Central Africa Colonial History.

Main themes

The first part of the course follows a chronological plan. We shall then pass in review the history of pre-colonial Africa, the first (15th-18th centuries) and second (19th-20th centuries) colonial periods; the time of independences (around 1960) and the most recent period. Certain particular subjects, such as the slave trade, evaluation of the rôle of missionnaries, the pan-African movement or apartheid will also be taken up. The second part of the course will be dedicated to in-depth examination of a question related to the history of sub-saharan Africa (for example, mutations in the family and relationships; relations between Christianity and traditional African religions; the avatars of socialism in Africa). Some years the course will deal with a region or a particular country of Africa.

Evaluation methods

To meet the Course requirements, students should :

  1. Regularly attend and actively participate into the scheduled classes;
  2. Read the African Press and write a 3 page paper (selecting an issue; commenting thereon in connexion with History). This will be part of the Examination;
  3. Write a 10 page Essay on a specific topic (to be determined during the Course): issues, both methodological and substantial, at stake; present status of sources and past works; reading articles/essays/ chapters in books (max. 5 pages), and critically reviewing these;
  4. Successfully pass the examination: press study (25%), historical essay (45%), oral examination on the Course content (30%).
Teaching methods

Each Session :

  •  is designed to confront students  with material cases, that may as well concentrate on local issues, and individual, and even personal matters;
  • and comprises the following, in turn : (1): Identifying methodological issue(s) at stake, on the basis of a material, specific case, possibly directly connected with most recent topics and facts (taken from, e. g., the press or an on-going exhibition/ publication/film); (2): Presenting and discussing the emerging main topic. This based on illustrative documents (identifying sources; analysis and confrontation of documents); (3): Major identified messages; and (4): Synthetic conclusion.

This inter-connected Question/Analysis/Answer process will enable the students to broaden their basic knowledge and identify a possible research topic for further seminar and/or essay.


An Introductory Session will precede the Course. The former will : - Insert Sub-Saharan Africa within historiography at large (major trends of African History in the past and how they evolved; new on-going research and what are promising fields to further explore; how politics, medias and intellectuals are recuperating history. - Address the relationship between memory and history.

Then, the Course will comprise 6 Sessions, each connected with an Issue at large, two or three thematic topics of which will be discussed in depth: (1) Africa within the World Economy and Globalization (e. g. flows of goods; resources and technological items; agriculture and forest policies; water policies; Development Aid and Cooperation); (2) Africa and its Environment (e. g. Man relationship with the latter; colonial changes; impact on diseases and epidemics; conserving and protecting Nature); (3) Power and Politics in Central Africa (e. g. setting-up, organization and fall of the major Kingdoms; colonial power; power and gender; conflicts and violence; resistances and independences; centralisation and decentralisation); (4) Religion and its social impact (e. g. history of Missions; syncretism and new religions; witchcraft; rural/urban way of life); (5) Art and culture (e. g. Art trade; music and identity; hybridisation aspects; esthetical and exoticism; collections and museums); (6) Africa, diasporas, and memories (e.g. flows of people and ideas; slave trade and deportation; border issues; Africa representation In/Out; tourism).

These sessions will tackle in depth studies of:

  1. the specificity of  Sub-Saharan history in the long run, up to the origin of hominids and its more recent findings, like the agricultural revolution or the Bantu expansion;
  2. the recurrent connexions with outer world, by confronting the African world perspectives with the Western world or other dynamic and multicultural areas.
Other information

Various types of sources will support the course, not only written, but also visual (photographs, ancient films, maps, and objects), and sound ones (interviews, reports, radio statements). To enrich discussions, other disciplines may also be brought in the debate (Anthropology, Sociology, Human Geography, Archaeology, Literature), and scientific scholars, archivists, museum curators, journalists be called upon to give their opinion on specific questions addressed under the course.

Cycle et année
> Master [60] in History
> Master [120] in History
> Master [120] in Anthropology
> Master [120] in Sociology
Faculty or entity
in charge

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