History of sub-Saharan Africa

lhist2610  2017-2018  Louvain-la-Neuve

History of sub-Saharan Africa
5 credits
22.5 h
Gijs Anne-Sophie;
An interest in Africa, past and present; an open mind. Basic knowledge of central Africa's colonial history.
Main themes
The first part of course will consist of general overviews to help students to understand the political, economic, social, cultural and religious features and developments of Sub-Saharan Africa. The idea will be to place the continent's history in context at the crossroads between other political and cultural areas (Arabic-Muslim, European and Asian) and their various interactions with Africa. Secondly, some of the more contemporary issues that Africa is currently facing (including the demographic challenge, widespread poverty, the resurgence of ethnic conflicts and migration) will be covered through in-depth case studies.

At the end of this learning unit, the student is able to :


At the end of the course, students should be able to understand the specific features of Africa's political, economic, cultural and religious history, as well as the major causes and consequences of its interactions with the rest of the world. They should be able to discuss specific issues covered in the course in a critical and in-depth manner, demonstrating an ability to summarise and make an argument.


The contribution of this Teaching Unit to the development and command of the skills and learning outcomes of the programme(s) can be accessed at the end of this sheet, in the section entitled “Programmes/courses offering this Teaching Unit”.
a) The aim of the module on politics will be to go back through history in order to understand the traditional structure of African societies, the conditions under which the first medieval kingdoms and empires emerged and the impact of Muslim advances, then the first infiltrations by Europeans (slave traders) into the established structures. We will then study the phenomenon of European colonisation (political causes and consequences) and identify the types of systems used, how they were legitimised and how power was exercised, and the reasons for decolonisation. Finally, we will seek to understand the evolution of African states since they became independent by studying the features and elements of the existing regimes (motivations for cronyism and authoritarianism, the issue of democracy in Africa).
Throughout this long progression, we will be continually faced with the concepts of border(s), ethnic group(s), identity/identities, diversity, hierarchy, war and conflict, resistance and legitimisation.
b) The aim of the module on economics will be to describe the traditional African economy (agriculture, farming, trade) and then place Africa in context in the world economy (gold trade, slave trade, colonial exploitation), identifying the impacts of these trades both for Africa and for the other entities involved. Africa's economic development since the end of colonisation and the "development cooperation" systems'particularly with the European Union'will then be questioned from the point of view of the challenges they pose for modern societies.
c) There will then be a final module on religion and social and cultural phenomena (animism, Islam, Christian missions, syncretism and new religions, witchcraft, rurality/urbanity, art and culture, women in Africa).
d) Each year, there will be a more in-depth examination of one case study in order to develop students' critical thinking on a sensitive issue (slavery, history and memory, African diaspora, migration, ethnic conflicts, demographic pressure, health and social welfare etc.).
Teaching methods
The materials used by the teacher will include extracts from scientific literature, as well as visual and audio sources (maps, photographs, diagrams, films, documentaries). Students will be provided with a detailed course plan and a corpus of documents, as well as additional bibliographical references to allow them to expand their horizons.
Evaluation methods
The oral examination will be based on the material covered in the course and may include the presentation of an individual piece of work based on complementary reading, iconographic documents, recordings or images.
Other information
Online resources
Faculty or entity

Programmes / formations proposant cette unité d'enseignement (UE)

Title of the programme
Master [60] in History

Master [120] in History

Master [120] in Anthropology