Studying online

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Unit Overview


This unit introduces students to the rich history of Africa. While the continent's vast and diverse history cannot be reviewed comprehensively in a single semester, it focuses on a number of key themes and important historical problems in lectures and tutorials. It begins with a discussion of Eurocentrism and the concepts of 'agency' and 'structure', and examines African slavery and the Atlantic slave trade. It explores conflict over land and resources in nineteenth-century southern Africa before turning its attention to the colonial era. The unit concentrates on the variety of African responses to European colonialism: violent resistance to European conquest in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; accommodation with colonial rulers once European rule was secured and the Mau Mau uprising in late colonial Kenya; the controversial politics of female circumcision in Kenya; Idi Amin's dictatorship in Uganda and the emergence of the Black Consciousness Movement in apartheid South Africa; and the terrible genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and the continuing humanitarian catastrophe in the Congo. The unit also focuses on the themes of agency and structure in the unfolding of African history, and in lectures and workshops students pay special attention to the important roles played by African historical actors, as well as the way in which material circumstances limited their freedom of action.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Semester 1UWA (Perth)Face to face
Semester 1AlbanyFace to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 3 option in the History major sequence
  • Level 3 elective

Students are able to (1) describe and assess the basic methodological issues characteristic of the discipline of History; (2) identify and evaluate the methodological problems posed by historical accounts of Africa that emphasise African agency and/or structural conditions as the primary motor of historical change in the continent; (3) demonstrate a detailed understanding of important themes in the history of Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; (4) analyse a range of primary sources, especially those that represent Africans from a Eurocentric perspective; (5) relate their independent interpretations to complex historiographical debates about the history of Africa; and (6) present advanced arguments in both written and oral assessments using the conventions of the historical discipline.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) workshop participation; (2) test; and (3) written assignments. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Jeremy Martens
Unit rules
a Level 2 History unit
or EURO2201 European Civilisation
or GEND2902 Men and Masculinities in History
HIST2247 Introduction to African History
Contact hours
3 hours per week
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.