EH413      Half Unit
African Economic Development in Historical Perspective

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Leigh Gardner SAR 507


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, MBA Exchange, MRes/PhD in Quantitative Economic History, MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Global Economic History (Erasmus Mundus), MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Political Economy of Late Development. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Many of Africa's current economic challenges, from persistent poverty to the weakness of state institutions, have deep historical roots.  This course provides an introduction to the economic history of sub-Saharan Africa since the medieval period.  Its overall aim is to bring Africa and Africans into global economic history, allowing students to understand how Africans contributed to that history, as well as how global changes have influenced the patterns of African development.  Moving chronologically, the course addresses a number of issues which are current in studies of African development, ncluding:

• 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 is paid to the ways in which economic development is measured and assessed in different periods with the available data. Seminars address the diverse experiences of specific countries and regions in addition to broader trends.


20 hours of seminars in the LT. 2 hours of seminars in the ST.

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

Formative coursework

Students are required to complete one essay or equivalent 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). 

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 summer exam period.

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 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

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