HIST 325: PRECOLONIAL AFRICA
Winter 2013 – TR 6:00-7:20pm, McKenzie 214 – CRN 23274 Version 1.00, 7 Jan 2013 Professor: Dr. L. F. Braun Office: 311 McKenzie Hall Telephone: x6-4838 on-campus. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Office hours: T 2:00-4:00pm & by appt. Overview and Objectives Africa is central to human history. It is the continent where our species arose, where some of the greatest ancient civilizations throve, and where dynamic, complex, and innovative cultures confronted a variety of social, political, and environmental challenges. Many African states and societies were materially wealthier than their European counterparts until the 1700s, and Africa has always been connected— however tenuously at times—to the wider world. Yet in the popular, Eurocentric historical imagination in the U.S. and Europe, there is sparse knowledge of Africa’s history, and it was rarely even considered a subject for historical study until the 1950s. For the period before European political dominion in Africa (c.1880-1960), this lack is even more pronounced. In this course we will explore the history of Africa between the 800s and the late 1800s, while at the same time discovering the logic behind African historical developments and tracing the broader implications of Africa’s history. Our core themes in this course are power, production, and trade, which intersected Africa’s human and environmental factors as its cultural, political, and social histories unfolded in a global context. After an overview of the geography and early history of Africa, we will consider a number of regional histories and themes successively in units. The topics we will encounter in our journey include the development of long-distance trade networks and cross-cultural contacts, state formation and social organization, the nature and impact of slavery and the slave trade in Africa, Africa’s place in the “first globalization” of the 1800s, and periodically the issues surrounding African history as a discipline. Geographically we will deal primarily with the regions now south of the formidable barrier of the Sahara Desert, but the desert was hardly impregnable, and the wide influence of Africa made the edges of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans increasingly important over time. No one course can cover more than a tiny sliver of the complexity and variety in Africa—home today to nearly a billion people, 55 nations (as of 9 July 2011), and thousands of communities of language and culture—but students completing this course will be able to write about and discuss major themes in African history with contextual sensitivity and will possess the knowledge necessary to undertake further study. Although this course extends into the late 1800s, a large number of 19th-century developments relative to colonial empires, medicine, environment, religion, and production will be treated in HIST 326 this Spring, where they flow more neatly and logically into the modern period. We hope you will stay on! An Important Note About This Syllabus Everything on this syllabus is important. Read it carefully and refer to it frequently. You alone are responsible for knowing its contents. The paper copy you receive at the beginning of the course is, ideally, the final version, but sometimes the unexpected intrudes and changes must be made. In all cases I will inform you of these changes and assure that an updated version is available and accessible on Blackboard. Pay attention to the version numbers if you are unsure which schedule is the latest, and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.
HIST 325 – Winter 2013 - 2 Assignments and Grading Because African history requires the mastery of entirely new bodies of knowledge for most students, it is important for you not only to keep up with the reading but to think actively about it through analytical writing. Therefore, this course will incorporate two short papers (1200 to 1500 words, roughly 4 to 6 pages, adjudged by word count) on topics...
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