EH413      Half Unit
African Economic Development in Historical Perspective

This information is for the 2016/17 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Leigh Gardner SAR 507


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, IMEX Exchange, MA Global Studies: A European Perspective, MRes in Quantitative Economic History, MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Global History, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia), MSc in Political Economy of Late Development and MiM Exchange. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Africa’s economic development challenges cannot be understood without looking back to the history of the continent. This course provides an introduction to the economic history of sub-Saharan Africa since the beginning of the Atlantic era. It begins by comparing levels of economic development in Africa  c. 1500  to that of other world regions. It then examines how major shifts in the international economy, from the industrial revolution to the recent financial crisis, influenced patterns of economic development on the continent. Focusing on the longue durée, the course addresses issues which are remain current in studies of African development, including:

• The role of globalization and trade and promoting or undermining development

• Environmental challenges to expanding production

• The structure of state institutions and their impact on growth

• The impact of economic change on social structures

Close attention will be paid to the ways in which economic development is measured and assessed in different periods with the available data. Readings will include historical documents from the periods in question. The inclusion of primary sources on the reading list will allow students to build research skills while engaging with key questions about the historical origins of Africa’s relative poverty.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

2-hour meetings weekly, with a flexible combination of lectures and seminars.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students are required to make one class presentation and submit one paper during the term.

Indicative reading

Readings for this course reflect current trends in research on African economic history and development. The main text is Emmanuel Akyeampong et al (eds), Africa’s Development in Historical Perspective (Cambridge, 2014). Other such readings will include recent contributions in journals such as the Economic History Review special issue on African economic history (November 2014).

We will supplement this with country- or region-specific studies such as Hopkins, Economic History of West Africa (1973) and Feinstein, Conquest, Discrimination and Development: An Economic History of South Africa (Cambridge, 2005).

For a general overview of African history over the period, see R.J. Reid, A History of Modern Africa (2009); J. Iliffe, Africans: The History of a Continent (1995).



Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the LT week 0.

Teachers' comment

Survey questions on feedback to students may be non-informative because assessed work comes later in the term than the survey.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2015/16: 13

Average class size 2015/16: 16

Controlled access 2015/16: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills