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Africa History & Anthropology 3: The History of Ideas and Institutions in Africa


Admission requirements

African Languages and Culture Students should be in their third year of study.

History students should have successfully completed their propaedeutic exam and both second-year BA-seminars.


African history and anthropology meet in the historic analysis of ideas and institutions. Institutions are here understood as institutionalized practices, as opposed to organisations and offices. The course concentrates on the basis of power and legitimacy in Africa, related to inequality and exclusion as well as inclusion. This concerns general social structures such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, as well as how power and legitimacy are materialized in slavery, witchcraft, religion and politics.

In this seminar several case studies where power contestation leads to social change or to interesting moments of tension are taken as departure points for discussions.

Central in this research seminar is students’ individual problem-oriented research on a topic of their choosing within the parameters of the course. Besides secondary literature, the students will work on self-identified primary source material for their case study (with historic sources or ethnographic material). Selecting primary sources and applying source critique will be an important aspect of the course.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student can:

  1. divise and conduct research of limited scope, including:
    a. identifying relevant literature and select and order them according to a defined principle;
    b. organising and using relatively large amounts of information;
    c. an analysis of a scholarly debate;
    d. placing the research within the context of a scholarly debate.
  2. write a problem solving essay and give an oral presentation after the format defined in the Themacolleges, including;
    a. using a realistic schedule of work;
    b. formulating a research question and subquestions;
    c. formulating a well-argued conclusion;
    d. giving and receiving feedback;
    e. responding to instructions of the lecturer.
  3. reflect on the primary sources on which the literature is based;
  4. select and use primary sources for their own research;
  5. analyse sources, place and interpret them in a historical context;
  6. participate in class discussions. #### Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation
  7. The student has knowledge of a specialisation, more specifically;
    • in the specialisation General History the place of European history from 1500 in a worldwide perspective; with a focus on the development and role of political institutions;
    • in the track History of European Expansion and Globalisation the development of global networks which facilitate ann ever growing circulation of people, animals, plants, goods and ideas, and the central role of European expansion in this from around 1500.
  8. Knowledge and insight in the main concepts, the research methods and techniques of the specialisation, more specifically;
    • in the specialisation General History the study of primary sources and the context specificity of nationally defined histories;
    • in the track History of European Expansion and Globalisation the combining of historiographical debates with empirical research of primary sources and/or the combining of various historiographical traditions through the use of innovative research questions.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific seminar

The student:

  1. Has acquired knowledge and insight in the historiography and theory of historical-anthropology. Students having successfully completed this course will be equipped with the necessary analytical insights.


The timetable is available on the History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Seminar attendance: 26 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature for seminars: 36 hours

  • Preparation for final presentation: 4 hours

  • Writing a paper (including literature and source study): 214 hours

Assessment method

  • Written paper (ca. 7200 words, based on problem-oriented research using primary sources, including footnotes and bibliography)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-5, 7-9

  • Oral Presentation 1: Primary Sources
    Measured leaning objectives: 2-5, 8

  • Oral presentation 2: Own research
    Measured learning objectives: 2-5, 7-9

  • Participation, preparation
    Measured learning objectives: 6

  • Assignment : Research plan
    Measured learning objectives: 1a, d, 2a, b


Written paper: 65%
Oral presentation 1 – primary sources: 10%
Oral presentation 2 – own research: 10%
Participation: 15%
Research plan: 0% (no grade)

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper as well as the participation must always be sufficient.


Written papers should be handed in within the given deadline


Revision should be carried out within the given deadline


Blackboard will be used for: - submission of written work

  • sharing course related information

Reading list

  • Patrick Chabal (2009) Africa: The Politics of Suffering and Smiling London & New York: Zed.

  • A selection of articles, to be announced.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. M.J. de Goede


Students wishing to follow this course would be advised to have succesfully completed the first or second year history subjects dealing with the introduction to African History.