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African Labour Histories: 1800 to 1960


Admission requirements

BSA-norm en beide propedeuse Themacolleges behaald.


Labour is one of the fundamental activities of every human being. The course will concentrate on the labour history of Africa. The first part of the course will introduce the main concepts to understand the importance of the study of labour history in general: the nature and composition of the working class and its definition and demarcation; the historical development and the logic of collective action by workers; definition of forms of labour relations, from non-commodified to commodified labour, from slavery to wage labour, etc.

The second part of the course will concentrate on Africa. Using East Africa and Ghana as case studies, the fundamental transition from slave-based systems to capitalist systems based on wage labour will be examined. History from the labour perspective will show how colonialism was not the end goal of European countries in Africa but an “instrument” for the expansion of the capitalist mode of production in that continent.

The central issue of the course is the transition from unfree forms of labour (such as slavery and debt-bondage) to wage labour (hired labour and agricultural indebtedness).

Finally the course will broach the question of Africa’s historic combination of emerging “capitalist” institutions and persistent “precapitalist” ones, and it will challenge theories of the political economy of institutional change in African history.

Course objectives

To be announced


See timetable History.

Mode of Instruction


Course Load

To be announced

Assessment method

  • Paper

  • Participation

  • Seminar presentation




  • Marcel van der Linden, “Workers of the World: Essay towards a Global Labour History”, Leiden: Brill, 2008.

  • Frederick Cooper, “From Slaves to Squatters: Plantation Labor and Agriculture in Zanzibar and Coastal Kenya, 1890-1925”, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.

  • Gareth Austin, “Labour, Land and Capital in Ghana: From Slavery to Free Labour in Asante, 1807-1956”, Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2005.

  • Frederick Cooper, “Decolonization and African Society: The Labour Question in French and British Africa”, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.


Via uSis.


Email: Stefano Bellucci PhD.