SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

H270 Society and Culture in Twentieth-Century Africa

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2019/2020
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Full Year

This course is about Africa in the twentieth century. It covers the entire continent, north and south of the Sahara: Egypt to South Africa, Dakar to Djibouti. Its focus is social and cultural history - although some attention is given to political and economic change too. 

The aim is to explore patterns of continuity and change in African societies and cultures over the last one hundred years, in a format that bridges the established divide between the colonial and postcolonial periods.

Classes proceed by way of five themes: 

  1. Colonial societies, 
  2. Religion and belief, 
  3. Social change, 
  4. Culture, 
  5. Postcolonial societies. 

Within these themes, topics range from violence, work and witchcraft, through gender, identity and urban life, and on to art, music and fashion. A central concern is to think about the intertwined historical processes that have shaped society and culture in Africa today.


  • Students enrol via the on-line Module Sign-up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Dept. administrator

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The objective of this course is to examine the history of Africa in the twentieth century, to chart patterns of continuity and change in African societies and cultures from the colonial period (c.1900-c.1960) to the postcolonial period (c.1960-present), and to introduce students to a range of key themes in the social and cultural history of the continent that are presently engaging the attention of historians.

By the end of the course students will have a broad familiarity with the social and cultural history of twentieth-century Africa, will have further developed their skills in researching and writing historical essays, delivering seminar presentations and thinking critically about historical issues, and will have developed an awareness of the historical antecedents of contemporary Africa.

Method of assessment

Exam (50%) and 3 x Coursework (50%)

Suggested reading

  • F. Cooper, Africa since 1940 (2002)
  • J. Allman et al (eds.), Women in Colonial African Histories (2002)
  • L. White, Speaking with Vampires (2000)
  • T.C. McCaskie, Asante Identities (2000)
  • P. Martin, Leisure and Society in Colonial Brazzaville (1995)
  • J. Fabian, Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular history in Zaire (1996)
  • J. Allman (ed.), Fashioning Africa (2004)
  • D. Anderson and R. Rathbone (eds.), Africaís Urban Past (2002)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules