Race, Violence and Colonial Rule in Africa

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Joanna Lewis room TBC


This course is available on the MSc in Conflict Studies, MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in History of International Relations, MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International Migration and Public Policy, MSc in International and World History (LSE & Columbia) and MSc in Theory and History of International Relations. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

This course examines the nature of colonial rule in Africa and its impact. It is focused upon the violence inherent in this encounter, its different forms and origins. It seeks to provide an explanation of the conflicts which erupted in Africa after 1989 by developing a historical perspective over the long duree. It is essentially a political history but includes cultural, social and economic aspects. The main thread running through the narrative is provided by British empire in Africa but Belgian and Portuguese rule are also studied. Topics covered include  pre-colonial African kingdoms, the ‘Scramble for Africa;  white settler culture and the colonial state; the origins of apartheid South Africa; indirect rule and Chiefs; the rise of nationalism in West Africa; the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya;  the Congo crisis and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba; the rise and fall of 'white' Rhodesia; the wars of liberation in Mozambique; the end of the apartheid state; the genocide in Rwanda; the civil war in Sierra Leone; Mugabe and Zimbabwe;  Somali warlordism and the ‘collasped state’.


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

There will be a reading week in the Michaelmas and Lent terms and a revision session in the Summer Term.

Formative coursework

Each student is required to write two essays (3,000 words each) and one mock exam .

Indicative reading

E Akyeampong  et al, Africa's Development in Historical Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2014); Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (Penguin Classic, 2015); Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa (Abacus, 1992); Sylviane A. Diouf, Dreams of Africa in Alabama: The Slave Ship Clotilda and the Story of the Last Africans Brought to America (OUP, 2009);  Adam Hoschild, King Leopold’s Ghost (Pan Books, 2012 edn);  F Furedi, The Silent War: Imperialism and the Changing Perception of Race (Pluto Press, 1998);M. Meredith, The state of Africa (Free Press, 2005); R Dowden, Africa: Altered States. Ordinary Miracles (Portobello Books, 2009); N Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (Abacas Books,1994);  Magema Fuze,  The Making of a Kholwa Intellectual by Hlonipha Mokoena (Kwa Zulu University Press, 2011); D Kennedy, Islands of White: Settler Society and Culture in Kenya and Rhodesia, 1890-1939 (Duke University Press,1987); F Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, (Penguin Modern Classic); Terri Ochiagha, A short history of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (Ohio University Press, 2018); A. Igoni Barrett, Blackass (Chatto & Windus, 2015); Tstsi, Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions (Seal Press, 2002 edn); Jeffrey Nyarota, The Graceless Fall of Robert Mugabe: The End of a Dictator’s Reign (Penguin; 2018); K Holsti, K. The State, War, and the State of War (Cambridge University Press, 1996).


Exam (80%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.
In class assessment (20%).

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2018/19: 21

Average class size 2018/19: 10

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information