Race, Violence and Colonial Rule in Africa

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Joanna Lewis SAR G.02


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 Asian History, 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 from the pre-colonial period onward . It is essentially a political history but includes cultural, social and economic aspects. The main thread running through the narrative is provided by the 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 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 ‘collapsed state’.


Learning engagement may include recorded content, Moodle work in groups, and live Zoom sessions; to be determined by the teacher. There will be a reading week in the Michaelmas and the Lent terms.

Formative coursework

Each student is required to write one formative essay of 4000 words in the Michaelmas Term.

Indicative reading

John Iliffe, Africans: The History of a Continent (CUP, 2017 edn); Cheikh Anta Diop, Precolonial. Black Africa: A Comparative Study of the Political and Social Systems of Europe and Black Africa, from Antiquity to the Formation of Modern States (1988); E Akyeampong et al, Africa's Development in Historical Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2014); Mary Kingsley, Travels in West Africa (Penguin Classic, 2015); Petina Gappah. Out of the Darkness, Shining Light (2020); 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). David van Reybrouck, Congo: The Epic History of a People (2015)


Essay (40%, 4000 words) in the LT.
Essay (60%, 6000 words) in the ST.

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: International History

Total students 2019/20: 13

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information