H270 Culture and Society in West Africa, 1900 to the present

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2 or Year 3
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of History

Module overview

This module is about cultural and social change in Africa in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It covers the entire continent, north and south of the Sahara, as well as considering the cultures of the African diaspora. The aim to is explore African cultures and societies across the established divide in the continent's modern history between the era of colonial rule in the first half of the twentieth century and that of renewed African sovereigny from around the 1960s. A range of social changes are examined, but the focus will be on the history of popular and visual cultures, including artistic production in the fields of music, dance, theatre, film and plastic art. A central concern is to think about the historical processes that have shaped contemporary society and culture 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

On successful completion of this module the student will be able to:

  • identify the key social and cultural processes shaping the history of Africa in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries;
  • critically examine primary sources and secondary historical writing;
  • mobilize both types of sources in seminar presentations and in essay writing;
  • understand the historical antecendents of contemporary African societies.

Scope and syllabus

  1. colonial societies and cultures
  2. religious change
  3. urbanization
  4. visual cultures
  5. music
  6. the performing arts
  7. writing and literature
  8. postcolonial popular cultures

Method of assessment

  • Response paper, 300 words, 20% of final mark
  • Response paper, 700 words, 30% of final mark
  • Essay 3,000 words, 50% of final mark
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

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)


Marie Rodet


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules