SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H275 Race, Class and Culture in the History of Southern Africa

Module Code:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course examines the historical development of southern Africa from pre-colonial times to the present. It will, however, give greatest weight to the study of colonial conquest and African struggles to end colonial rule.

Colonial rule brought widespread cultural, social and economic change. Thus themes studied include:

  • the development of new religious identities and the interaction between political/economic change and cultural practice, 
  • the rise of urban centers and new urban identities, 
  • the emergence of peasant economies, 
  • the consequences of mineral discoveries and British imperialism, 
  • the rise of settler states,
  • the emergence of segregation and Apartheid. 

In particular the course emphasizes the unity of the subcontinent by examining themes common to the region as a whole. Few countries in southern Africa escaped the complex social and economic changes unleashed by South Africa's industrial revolution in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the in the twentieth. 

The course concludes by examining the varied processes by which colonial rule and Apartheid came to an end, from Zimbabwe's bush war to South Africa's township revolt and negotiated settlement.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, students will have:

  • To examine and question the unity of southern Africa.
  • To familiarise students with the main themes in the history of the region
  • To examine issues of continuity and discontinuity (around the themes of politics, culture, economy) with regard to colonial conquest and change
  • To examine cultural change as historical process

Method of assessment

Exam (60%) and 3 x Coursework (40%)

Suggested reading

  • De Kiewiet, C.W. A history of South Africa, social and economic (Oxford, 1941);
  • Hayes, P. et al. Namibia under South African rule (Oxford, 1998);
  • Newitt, M. A history of Mozambique (London, 1997);
  • Ross, R., A concise history of South Africa (Cambridge, 1999);
  • Werbner, R. Tears of the dead: the social history of an African family (Edinburgh, 1991)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules