SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Race, Segregation, and Apartheid in Twentieth-century South Africa (PG)

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 2

This course examines the history of southern Africa from the end of the Second World War to the end of the twentieth century. Its primary concern will be with the growth of African nationalism, the nature of 'colonial' rule in its last few decades, the struggles of African women and men against these forms of rule (including the struggles against Apartheid in South Africa), the coming of Independence and socialist revolutions in the region. 

Particular emphasis will be placed on the social and cultural history of the region in the context of nationalist struggles and Independence.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of this course students should:

  • be familiar with the historical debates on the main themes in the history of southern Africa since 1945
  • understand the ways in which southern Africa at the end of the twentieth century was shaped by the particular political and social dynamics of the post-WWII era
  • understand the roots (social, cultural and economic) of nationalism in the region
  • understand the ways in which African men and women have taken up and understood nationalist struggles
  • be familiar with the diverse political histories of countries in the region since Independence
  • be able to write cogently about the above issues.

Scope and syllabus

Topics covered include: 
  • African elites, peasants and proletarians since 1945;
  • Apartheid's genesis; 
  • The rise of mass-based nationalist movements; 
  • Chiefs, subjects and citizenship; 
  • The social transformations wrought by rapid economic growth; 
  • The changing nature of religious thought; 
  • The 'Cold War' in southern Africa; 
  • Guerrilla wars and liberation struggles in settler states; 
  • The end of Portuguese colonialism;
  • Experiments with socialism; 
  • The end of Apartheid.

Method of assessment

Essay of 3,000 words worth 80% of the final mark, Reaction paper/book review of 1,000 words worth 20% of the final mark

Suggested reading

Introductory bibliography:
  • Alexander, J. et al, Violence and Memory: One Hundred Years in the Dark Forests of Matabeleland (Oxford, 2000); 
  • Bhebe, N. and T. Ranger (eds.), Society in Zimbabwe's Liberation War (Oxford, 1996); 
  • Chabal, P. et al, A history of postcolonial Lusophone Africa (London, 2002); 
  • Cooper, F. Africa since 1940 (Cambridge, 2002); 
  • Hanlon, J. Beggar your Neighbours: Apartheid Power in Southern Africa (London, 1986); 
  • Hanlon, J. Mozambique: Who calls the Shots? (London, 1991);
  • Newitt, M. History of Mozambique (London, 1995);
  • O'Meara, D. Forty Lost Years (Johannesburg, 1996); 
  • Ross, R. A concise History of South Africa (Cambridge, 1999);
  • Van Binsbergen, W. Tears of rains: Ethnicity and History in central western Zambia (London, 1992); 
  • Vaughan, M. The story of an African Famine: Gender and Famine in twentieth-century Malawi (Cambridge, 1987);
  • Vaughan, O. Chiefs, Power and Social Change: Chiefship and Modern Politics in Botswana, 1880s-1990s (Trenton, N.J., 2003).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules