EH413      Half Unit
African Economic Development in Historical Perspective

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Rebecca Simson


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, MBA Exchange, MSc in Economic History, MSc in Economic History (Research), MSc in Empires, Colonialism and Globalisation, MSc in Financial History, MSc in Global Economic History, 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.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access).  In previous years we have been able to provide places for all students that apply, but that may not continue to be the case.

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 early modern  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. 

The course addresses a number of issues which are current in studies of African development, including:

  • Globalization and development
  • Environmental challenges
  • The structure of institutions
  • Economic development and welfare outcomes

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 AT.

This course is delivered through a combination of seminars and lectures totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Winter Term. 

This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Winter Term

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. For indicative work, please see the online textbook of the African Economic History Network, This History of African Development.

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).


Essay (100%, 5000 words) in the WT Week 1.

Key facts

Department: Economic History

Total students 2022/23: 5

Average class size 2022/23: 6

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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