Modern Africa: History, Politics and Society

Key information

Year of study
Module code
Department of History

Module overview

This module provides an understanding of the historical processes which have created modern Africa. Extending from the deep past to the dramatic transformations of the twentieth century and on to the present day, it explores the ways in which the continent's history has shaped contemporary societies and politics.

Drawing on a wide range of regional case-studies north and south of the Sahara and from the diaspora beyond, the module is organized around a sequence of key themes, from the diversity of Africa's cutures and identities to the legacy of the slave trade, the rise and fall of European colonial rule, and the vibrant city-scapes of the present-day African scene. Woven through these themes will be a central concern with the changing role of Africa's place in the world.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to:

  • Identify the main historical processes which have created modern Africa
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of the African past
  • Mobilize a range of primary and secondary sources in thinking and writing about the history of Africa
  • Understand the ways in which Africa's role in the wider world has changed over time


Learning materials will be delivered (100%) via the VLE Moodle with resources drawn from the SOAS library and the University of London Online library. Learning is focused upon free-form and structured discussion and both these and the materials are supported by a dedicated Associate Tutor.

Scope and syllabus

Topics covered include:

  1. The idea of Africa
  2. Precolonial societies and states
  3. The slave trade and its legacy
  4. Religion and belief
  5. Nineteenth-century transformations
  6. European conquest
  7. Colonial states
  8. Colonial economies and societies
  9. Ethnicities and identities
  10. Nationalism and decolonization
  11. Postcolonies
  12. Disease and demography
  13. Urban Africa
  14. Popular culture and the arts
  15. Africa in the neo-liberal age
  16. Trans-Saharan connections

Method of assessment

  • E-tivity 1 – Access and Socialisation (0%)
  • E-tivity 2 – Library information skills (500 words - 5%)
  • E-tivity 3 – Literature review (500 words - 5%)
  • E-tivity 4 – Response paper (1,000 words - 10%)
  • E-tivity 5 – Essay proposal (1,000 words - 10%)
  • Open book exam (3 hours - 70%)

Suggested reading

  • J. Iliffe, Africans: The History of a Continent (3rd ed. 2017).
  • J. Parker and R. Rathbone, Africa: A Very Short Introduction (2007).
  • J. Parker and R. Reid, eds, The Oxford Handbook of Modern African History (2013).
  • R. Reid, A History of Modern Africa (2nd ed. 2012).
  • F. Cooper, Africa since 1940: The Past of the Present (2002).
  • S. Stillwell, Slavery and Slaving in African History (2014).
  • B. Freund, The African City: A History (2007).
  • K. Barber, A History of African Popular Culture (2017).
  • I. Berger, Women in Twentieth-Century Africa (2016).
  • J. Feguson, Global Shadows: Africa in the Neolineral World Order (2006).
  • N. Jacobs, African History through Sources (2014).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules