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Africa History and Anthropology 1: Africa from Zero to Now


Admission requirements

No specific requirements


This course is designed to provide a general introduction to the history of Africa from the ancient times to the independence from colonial imperialism.

Coverage of Africa in the news is often skewed towards stories of conflict and natural tragedies. Africa is of course much more than this. It is a continent of accelerated economic growth and investment opportunities, with a growing young population and an ever-expanding market. It is the “cradle of humanity” and geologically it is oldest continent in the world. Africa is the place where important and sometimes “mysterious” civilizations have flourished and declined: from the Egypt of the Pharaohs to the Roman provinces, from the Sahelian kingdoms to the Saharan Sultanates, from the Swahili merchant city-States to the Christian empire of Ethiopia. Africa has been also at the centre of capitalist global expansion. European interests were crucial in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, while European investments were at the basis of the colonisation and partition of the continent amongst European powers. Today African states are independent but Africa is, like all other continents, part of an interconnected world. This course focuses on this complex history of interaction, resilience and sometimes resistance of African realities vis-à-vis external influences and forces.

The lectures are organized by historical periods: the early history of Africa (archaeology, human origins, ancient era); the ancient civilisations (Egyptians, Carthage, the Roman presence); the advent of Christianity and subsequently that of Islam; the period of the great pre-colonial empire and so-called “stateless” societies; slavery and the slave trade; the Ottoman presence; the early colonial period or “the Scramble for Africa”; the post-WW II period in which Africa’s independence was formed; universal ideologies and pan-Africanism; the post-Cold War developments; etc. Within each period a number of themes will be discussed, ranging from politics to economics to culture.

The course will cover the history of the entire continent: Mediterranean Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa.

The course is based on a textbook and other materials (articles and videos) distributed by the teacher during the course via Blackboard.

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student can:

  • )1 organise and use relatively large amounts of information

  • 2) reflect critically on knowledge and understanding as presented in academic literature

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  • 3) 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 an ever growing circulation of people, animals, plants, goods and ideas, and the central role of European expansion in this from around 1500.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this specific lecture course

Students will learn and study:

  • 4) In its most general terms, this course seeks to familiarize students with the history of Africa and offer them a historical context for understanding Africa today. This entails that students will have a good grasp of the general chronology of the history of the continent; they will have a broad understanding of both the history of African societies and that of the transnational dynamics that shaped the region. On a methodological level, students will be encouraged to question received wisdom and challenge established knowledge on Africa by critically engaging with the mainstream discourses on Africa.

  • 5) In particular, in this course the following issues in African history will be covered: geography and environment; Africa and human origins; Egyptian, Greek, Roman civilisations in Africa; the coming of Christianity and Islam; slavery and the creation of the Atlantic world; African societies, economies and states from 1500 to 1880; colonialism and African resistance; Africa, economic changes and the world system; political change in the time of colonialism; African culture in the modern world; political economy of decolonization and Independence; Pan-Africanism and other universal ideologies in Africa.


The timetable is available

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Independent study of literature

Course Load

Total course load 5 EC x 28 hours= 140 hours

  • Lectures: 24 hours

  • Study of compulsory literature for lectures and exams: 112 hours

  • Exams: 2 x 2 hours

Assessment method


The course will be assessed through two subtests, covering all course objectives:

  • Midterm examination (covering the first 6 lectures): multiple choice and short open questions covering the first 6 lectures

  • Final examination (covering all lectures): multiple choice and short open questions covering the last 6 lectures


  • Midterm examination: 50%

  • Final examination: 50%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


If the final grade is insufficient, there is the possibility of retaking the full exam, replacing both the earlier mid- and endterm grades.

Rules regarding the admission to resits can be found in Article 4.1 of the BA Course and Examination Regulations

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • course information

  • submitting assignments

Reading list

  • Erik Gilbert & Jonathan Reynolds, Africa in World History (3rd edition), Pearson, 2012

  • Colin McEvedy, The Penguin Atlas of African History (new edition), Penguin, 1995

  • Further written and video material will be distributed to students via Blackboard


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.


Dr. S. Bellucci


Modules 2 and 3 of the Academische Vaardigheden programme are a compulsory component of this lecture series for students of the BA Afrikaanse Talen en Culturen.