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History 325

HIST 325
African Civilizations

Catalog Entry

HIST 325
African Civilizations
Three hours lecture: (3)

Prerequisite: Three hours of History at the 100 level.

Examines Africa's social, cultural and economic institutions as they have evolved and changed through the ages. Topics include man's evolution in Africa, state formation, the slave trade, early European contacts and colonialism.


Detailed Description of Content of Course
The course is treated as an upper-level survey since most students take the course with little detailed or intimate knowledge of the region. Given the size and diversity of the continent, a thorough treatment of the whole region cannot be achieved in a one-semester course. Careful use of case-studies is employed to reflect larger issues. All of the following topics are dealt with although with differing degrees of emphasis.
•    Geographical Setting & Its Capabilities & Limitations
•    Man's Physical & Cultural Evolution in Africa
•    The Rise of Civilizations in Africa: A Discussion of Hunting-Gathering, Pastoral and Agricultural Lifestyles
•    The Development of State Systems in West Africa: Ghana, Mali, Songhai, Asante, Benin
•    The Development of State Systems in Eastern & Southern Africa: Ethiopia, Swahili city-states, Zimbabwe
•    The Portuguese Arrival and Its Impact
•    The Slave Trade: An Overview
•    Abolition of the Slave Trade: Adaptation to Legitimate Trade; the Birth of Liberia & Sierra Leone
•    European Interaction with Africa: Explorers, Missionaries, Colonialists African Responses to Colonialism: Case Studies: Ethiopia, Madagascar, Algeria, Gold Coast, South Africa


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

The basic methodology of the course is lecture, but students are given ample opportunity to ask/answer questions in class. Student-teacher interaction is encouraged. Video presentations serve to provide students with a visual introduction to the peoples and cultures of the continent. . Reading for the course can vary from semester to semester but generally encompasses some of the following: novels, biographies, autobiographies, travel accounts, memoirs, as well as primary documents.

Goals & Objectives of the Course

1. Students will practice thinking critically and analytically about historical issues, acquire a broader knowledge and deeper understanding of pertinent historical events and processes, and cultivate a familiarity with the concepts of historical argument and interpretation.
2. Students will develop disciplinary research skills by designing strategies to locate and analyze primary and secondary source evidence, processing and organizing the resultant data, and composing proper citation and bibliographical entries.
3. Students will apply their critical thinking, research, and compositional skills to the creation and presentation of thesis driven essays that discuss, for example, historical social, economic, political, and/or cultural developments and that address issues such as the causes and consequences of historical change and continuity.

More specifically, students:
1). will be able to discuss and analyze basic historical background of the continent.
2). will be able, through case studies and from a visual introduction to the continent, to move away from the basic stereotypic & monolithic perceptions of the region, permitting them to appreciate its ethnic, cultural, & linguistic diversity.
3). will be able to form their own conclusions about the region's problems and potential and to better assess and analyze news-reporting about the region.
4). will be able to understand from the perspective of another culture how that culture views the world around it and why it has made the historical choices it has.


Assessment Measures

Knowledge and understanding of the material covered in this course may be measured using an array of assessment tools that can include written examinations, class attendance and participation, formal papers (book analyses, research projects, and primary source analyses) and informal writing assignments. All exercises are designed to expand the student's ability to evaluate historical events and to develop his or her ability to compose persuasive arguments.


Other Course Information

The course draws students from a wide variety of disciplines and is itself interdisciplinary containing elements of history, geography and anthropology. Effort is made to give Africans themselves a strong voice in the course through primary documents and through film. The course revolves around a series of PowerPoint presentations incorporating lecture outlines, excerpts from primary documents, historic photos, cartoons, graphs, charts, and occasional internet links.


Review and Approval
Date Action Reviewed by
October 2010 Reviewed and Approved by Sharon Roger Hepburn


04/2011