HIST2136 Intro to African History
Fall 2004 - Spring 2005

Class times: T-TH 11:30am-12:50pm
Location: JDH G5
Instructor: Dr. Fikru Gebrekidan
Office: 311 Edmund Casey
Phone: (506) 452-0509
E-mail: fikrug@stu.ca
Office hours: T-TH 10:00-11:30am or by appointment; feel free to drop in at anytime if you find my office door open.

Kevin Shillington, History of Africa (St. Martin, 1995). Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart (Anchor Books, 1994). Nega Mezlekia, Notes from the Hyena's Belly: An Ethiopian Boyhood (Penguin Books, 2000).

Course description
This course counts for six credit hours. During the fall semester, students are introduced to the major regions of Africa and their historical developments from pre-history to colonial partition. The spring semester focuses on colonial and post-colonial developments, allowing students an ideal platform to grapple with contemporary issues. The class is designed to appeal to history and non-history majors alike through lectures, discussions, videos, novels and a textbook. The study of history is about making sense of the past, not about the memorization of events. Students are therefore expected to be analytical, to synthesize together the various readings, to make inferences, and to exchange ideas.

Course objective
The main objective of this course is to give students an overall understanding of Africa's historical experience and to expose them to some of the key debates in African historiography. Themes covered include the process of state formation, the significance of trade and religion as sociopolitical forces, the trans-oceanic slave trade and its longterm effects, Africa's place in the world economy, colonialism, resistance, nationalism, and independence and its challenges.

The final grade is based on two midterms, two end-of-semester tests, two book reviews, group activity, attendance and participation, pop quizzes and take-homes.

There will be two midterm tests (one per semester) and two end-of-semester tests (one per semester). Each test constitutes ten percent of the final grade. Pop quizzes and take-homes will be given periodically and make up ten percent of the final grade.

Book reviews
There will be two book reviews. The first book review is due the end of the fall semester, and counts for ten percent of the final grade. Based on the novel Things Fall Apart, the book review should reflect the student's grasp of the major themes addressed throughout the semester. Paper should be about four-five pages in length (1000-1250 words) and should have parenthetical notes instead of footnotes. The second book review is due the end of the spring semester and counts for 15 percent of the final grade. Based on the autobiographical memoir Notes from the Hyena's Belly, the review should reflect the student's understanding of major issues affecting modern Africa. Paper should be about five-six pages in length (1250-1500 words) and should have parenthetical notes instead of footnotes.

Group activity
Group activity counts for ten percent of the final grade. Each student will represent one major country or two small countries. We will call this "country expertise." This means students will keep up with current news and take turn updating the class about developments in their designated countries. Students who specialize in countries located in the same region (eastern Africa, southern Africa, etc.) will form a group. We will call this "regional expertise." Just like the country experts, regional experts will periodically update the class about contemporary regional developments. Their presentation will be more detailed and comprehensive, showing a concerted group effort. Students are encouraged to use various sources for this project, including the allafrica.com, a major web source on contemporary news on Africa.

Attendance and participation
Attendance and participation count for fifteen percent of the final grade. Assessment is based on several factors: class activity, coming to class prepared, respect to the professor and fellow students, positive attitude, class etiquette, attendance and arrival on time. You are allowed a maximum of eight absences. Each absence beyond that will lower your grade by a percentage point. For instance, if you have fifteen absences, your grade for attendance and participation will be lowered by at least seven points, which might mean a loss of a full letter grade. Students with obligatory campus activities that may conflict with class schedule should immediately see the professor. Extenuating circumstances such as family emergencies and health problems have to be documented through the registrar's office to be excused, and even then the student has the responsibility to turn in all assignments on time.

Class activity
Discussions, debates, asking and answering questions help sharpen students' analytical and reasoning skills as well as expose them to different perspectives. As such, they are central components of class activity. Political views have nothing to do with grades and students should feel free to express their opinions without feeling intimidated. Feel free to disagree with a particular point of view, but use a polite and formal language to assert your views. Derisive, disrespectful and spiteful comments toward a fellow student or the professor create a hostile atmosphere and may result in an automatic zero grade on attendance and participation. If you are new to St. Thomas or have not done so already, consult STU's academic handbook to learn more about the policy on "mutual expectations" in the classroom.

Class etiquette
Food is not permitted in class. Cellular phones must be turned off before entering class and should stay off until the class is dismissed. Portable CD and cassette players should be put away before entering class. Falling asleep or snoring in class is embarrassing to the student and disruptive to the class. Ask permission to leave the class if you cannot keep yourself awake. Bathroom trips, although understandable under critical circumstances, are generally discouraged and should never become a pattern. While communicating with your professor in person or by email, address him or her by the last name and the proper title unless you are told otherwise. Do not start to pack up before the class is over.

Policy on accommodation
Students with disabilities and in need of special accommodations are encouraged to talk to the director of student affairs and the professor to make the necessary arrangements in accordance to the STU guideline on accessibility and accommodation. Let the professor know how he or she can be of help. It is more likely that you know more than the professor about the nature of your disability. It is therefore up to you to try to enlighten the professor about your needs in the classroom. Such information is confidential and is not shared with any other person without your knowledge.

Students are expected to honor principles of truth and honesty in their academic works. Academic honesty entails, among other things, that students will not plagiarize. This means that students will not submit someone else's work as their own, nor will they hand in a paper copied from the web or any other published or unpublished sources. Academic honesty also means students will acknowledge any borrowed ideas (be it in the form of quotation, summary or paraphrase) using the proper citation format. Plagiarism is a serious academic offense that can result in a failing grade for the course. Consult your academic handbook (pp. 237-38) for a detailed discussion on plagiarism.

Grading scale
0-49 =F
50-59 =D
60-64 =C-
65-69 =C
70-74 =C+
75-79 =B-
80-84 =B
85-88 =B+
89-91 =A-
92-- =A

Weekly readings

Sep. 14. Overview of syllabus and course material.

Sep. 16. Outlines of a continent: Shillington 1 (numbers refer to chapter numbers instead of page numbers).

Sep. 21-23. Pre-history: Shillington 1-2.

Sep. 28-30. Africa's iron age: Shillington 3-4.

Oct. 5-7. Northeastern Africa and Christianity: Shillington 5 and 11.

Oct. 11. Thanksgiving.

Oct. 12-14. Islam and the trans-Saharan trade: Shillington 6-7.

Oct. 14. Midterm.

Oct. 19-21. Islam and the Indian Ocean trade: Shillington 8-9..

Oct. 22. Last day to drop fall semester courses without academic penalty.

Oct. 26-28. Southern Africa and the European factor: Shillington 10 and 15.

Nov. 2-4. The transatlantic slave trade: Shillington 12-13.

Nov. 9. West Africa in the 19th century: Shillington 16.

Nov. 11. School closed for Remembrance Day.

Nov. 16. Class discussion on Things Fall Apart. Come with a one-page overview of the novel. Essay should be typed and double spaced (about 250 words). Late submission will not be accepted.

Nov. 18. East Africa in the 18th-19th centuries: Shillington 14 and 17.

Nov. 23. Southern Africa in the 19th century: Shillington 18.

Nov. 25. Northeastern Africa in the 19th century: Shillington 19. First book review due.

Nov. 30 - Dec. 2. Individual country report. Each student will make a two-minute presentation on his/her country of expertise. Points to cover will include, but not limited to, country location, capital city, form of government, official language, name of head-of-state, major export commodities, major problems, and positive contributions to world culture, sports, music, etc. More will be said in class about this.

Jan. 4-6. Overview of fall semester: Shillington 16-19.

Jan. 11. Last day to drop this class without academic penalty.

Jan. 11-13. The "scramble" for Africa: Shillington 20-21.

Jan. 18-20. Colonialism, industrialization, and roots of apartheid: Shillington 22.

Jan. 25-27. Colonial administration, policy, and practice: Shillington 23.

Feb. 1-3. The interwar years: Shillington 24.

Feb. 8-10. World War II and birth of modern African nationalism: Shillington 25.

Feb. 15-17. Independence in West and East Africa: Shillington 26.

Feb. 18. Last day to drop spring semester courses without academic penalty.

Feb. 22-24. Independence in Central and Southern Africa: Shillington 27.

Mar. 1. Midterm.

Mar. 3. Legacies of colonialism: Shillington 28.

Mar. 7-11. Spring break.

Mar. 8-10. Legacies of colonialism continued: Shillington 28.

Mar. 15-17. Ecological and humanitarian crises: Shillington 29.

Mar. 22-24. Militarism, irredentism, secession and civil war: the case of the Horn: Shillington 29; start reading Mezlekia's Notes from the Hyena's Belly.

Mar. 25-28. Easter weekend.

Mar. 29-31. Class discussion on Notes from the Hyena's Belly. Students should come with a one-page overview of the book. Essay should be typed and double spaced (about 250 words). Late submission will not be accepted.

Apr. 5-7. Group presentation. Each group will discuss current problems affecting its region and offer recommendations for solving them. Each group will be given twenty-five minutes. More will be said in class about the group project.

Final exam: TBA.

Note about the syllabus
This syllabus is not a binding legal contract. Rather, it is meant to serve as a road map for both the students and the professor. Should the need arise, the professor maintains the right to modify the course by adding, subtracting, or rearranging reading assignments and course requirements.

History 3573 - African History in Global Context
History 4516 - Themes in African History

Fikru Gebrekidan / History / Faculty / St. Thomas Homepage