Africa and the World Economy, 1500-2000

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Leigh Gardner SAR 5.07


This course is available on the BSc in Economic History, BSc in Economic History and Geography, BSc in Economic History with Economics and BSc in Economics and Economic History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

This course examines the economic history of Sub-Saharan Africa from the medieval period to the present. Its overall aim is to situate Africa within global economic history, illustrating how Africa and Africans contributed to global economic change as well as exploring the impact of those changes on African economies.  Lectures provide a chronological introduction to significant periods in African economic history, from the trans-Saharan trade through the slave trade, colonial rule, and independence. The course ends by considering the significance of recent economic expansions and population growth. While lectures and classes focus on broader themes, assessed work includes a case study research project allowing students to learn about the diversity of experience around the continent.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual classes and flipped-lectures delivered as short online videos. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas and Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students should expect to complete two formative assignments per term. This will include one essay or equivalent plus an assignment related to the summative case study project. Students will need to have the selection of their case study approved by the course convener by the end of MT, and prepare an outline and reading list by the middle of LT.

Indicative reading

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). For accessible introductions to a variety of themes in African economic history, see the African Economic History Network’s online textbook, The History of African Development.


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the summer exam period.
Project (20%, 3000 words) in the ST.
Class participation (10%) in the MT and LT.

The research project will involve a case study (3000 words) of an African country, focused on one of the themes/questions addressed in the course. 

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2019/20: 36

Average class size 2019/20: 18

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One 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