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Activating the Past: Heritage, Sources & Public History of Africa


Admission requirements

No admission requirements


This course focuses on African History through analysing the primary sources, heritage and public history narratives of Africa's past. 'History' refers to the description and analysis of events and processes that have taken place in the lives of individuals and their societies. We will treat history as a concept and examine what history means: for people, for their societies and as a discipline. How do events, processes, experiences and perceptions become official or scientific history narratives, and what role do power relations play in this? How do personal histories relate to the history of groups, institutions? And in what way is the African past visible and made known in the public sphere as well as in the educational sphere?
History is never self-evident or unambiguous. What is seen as history is always an interpretation of the past based on the interpretation of available sources. Without sources to verify stories about the past, no historical research is possible and stories are fictitious. Sources anchor history in the past and they form the building blocks with which history can be constructed. Central to this course is the study of different types of sources and heritage collections that form a basis of academically relevant historiography about Africa. To this end, students visit museums, archives and libraries where the following questions are asked of the material:
WHO produced (wrote, drew, photographed, made etc.) the source?
WHAT is the source? Is it written, typed, spoken, drawn, photographed, sculpted, etc?
WHEN was the source produced?
WHERE was the source produced?
WHY was the source produced?
Each of these five points can be further developed and expanded: the answer to these questions provides insight into what the source can tell us about that past. However, sources do not just come to us. The available historical sources, written, oral and digital, as well as the collections of tangible and intangible heritage, have been deliberately preserved and conserved, and the decisions in archiving partly determine which narratives about the past can be formed. Studying the processes of archiving and heritage policy is therefore just as important as studying the sources and heritage collections themselves.
In addition, in addition to oral and written primary sources and heritage, digital sources will also be studied. As we increasingly enter a paperless world and the present will be largely preserved in digital format, digital literacy, i.e. critically assessing and authenticating digital online resources, is crucial to master in order to become a well-trained professional historian.
These twenty-first century skills are crucial for History and Africa Studies students because established archival collections are increasingly being digitized, as well as because the primary sources of the very recent past are primarily digital sources. The course will therefore also address the selection, assessment, evaluation and ultimately archiving of online primary sources.
Part of this course are field visits to heritage institutions, archives and museums where we can study primary sources and heritage of the African past itself. Students are expected to go along with all field visits, and may only miss 1 field visit for legitimate reason.

Course objectives

General Learning Objectives

  • The student can organize and process relatively large amounts of information.

  • The student can critically reflect on knowledge and insights laid down in professional scientific literature.

  • The student can critically analyse (digital) primary sources
    Learning objectives, specific to the specialisation
    The student has gained knowledge of the specialisation(s) to which the BA-Lectures belongs, more specifically:

  • majoring in African History (Africa from Zero to Now); as well as the track History of European Expansion and Globalisation for the emergence of global networks that bring about an increasingly intensive circulation of people, animals, crops, goods and ideas, and the central role of European expansion in it from around 1500 onwards

Learning objectives, specific to this BA-Lecture
The student:

  • Learns about which sources are important for African History.

  • Is able to assess and test a variety of sources, whether written, visual, spoken or material, for validity and usefulness for writing academic texts related to the history of Africa.

  • Is able to present and evaluate the results of the assessment of specific sources used for writing African history both orally and in writing.


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Assessment and weighting
All learning objectives of the BA-Hoorcollege are tested by means of three partial tests:
Partial test 1 (Written exam)
Partial test 2 (Written exam)
Partial test 3 (Presentation)


Assessment takes place by means of a report on the 'field visit' (30%) and one larger written assignment (Paper 50%) as well as an individual presentation (20%)
In order to successfully complete the course, the student must have obtained at least a 3 for all partial tests. If the weighted final grade is lower than a 5.5, the student can do 1 resit assignment.


Insufficient partial tests can be retaken. The resit takes place at one exam moment, at which the partial tests are offered. The re-examination can only be taken if the final mark is insufficient; moreover, only insufficient partial tests can be resit.

Inspection and feedback

At the latest when the result of the assignment is announced, it will be indicated how and at what time the debriefing of the assignment takes place. In any case, a debriefing will be organized if a student requests this within 30 days after the announcement of the results.

Reading list

To be determined. All readers will be made available on Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap (Login | Universiteit Leiden) is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Reuvensplaats



Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.
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