St. Thomas University Fall 2003

HIST 3573 A: African History in Global Context

W F 9:00-10:20am, Edmund Casey Hall G13

Instructor: Dr. Fikru Gebrekidan
Office: 122 Edmund Casey Hall
Phone: 452-0509

Office hours: T Th 10:30-12:00 pm or by appointment; drop in at any time if you find my office door open.


Curtin, Philip., et al. African History: From Earliest Times to Independence. New York: Longman, 1995. (UNB Bookstore).

Davidson, Basil. African Civilization Revisited: From Antiquity to Modern Times. Trenton: African World Press, 1991. (UNB Bookstore). Harris, Joseph., ed. Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora. Washington: Howard University Press, 1993. (On Reserve).

Pankhurst, Richard and Shihan Jayasuriya, eds. The African Diaspora in the Indian Ocean. Trenton: Africa World Press, 2003. (On reserve).

Holloway, Joseph, ed. Africanisms in the American Culture. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. (On reserve).

Course description

The central theme of this course is "African agency" in world history. The theme allows us to assess Africa's place in world history both as giver and receiver, initiator as well as reactor. We will explore the continent's history first in terms of its own internal dynamics, then in terms of its encounters with Europe, America and Asia, and finally in terms of the various cultural syntheses that have emerged as a result of such trans-oceanic contacts.

As the world has become ever more interdependent because of globalization, the challenges that face Africa and the third world have a larger worldwide repercussion. The second purpose of this course is to encourage students to think globally by paying attention to such universal threats as environmental degradation, economic uncertainty, genocide, terrorism, overpopulation, displacement, wars, pandemic diseases, etc. In other words, as they read and learn about Africa's place in world history, students are expected to reflect on their particular societies and national experiences. The purpose of such reflection is not to pass moral judgement, however, but rather to develop a fuller and well-rounded appreciation of the common challenges that humanity as a whole faces.

Finally, because of globalization, workers and work places have become more mobile than ever before. Besides contributing to students' intellectual refinement, this course is therefore meant to bolster cross-cultural awareness through an empathic treatment of other cultures and peoples. As such, it is the hope and aim of this class to provide a practical social skill that makes it easier to live and work beyond one's cultural and national boundaries.

Your final grade for this class will be based on seven factors: take-homes and quizzes (15%), paper (20%), midterm (15%), final (15%, group presentation (15%), class participation (10%), attendance (10%).

Take-home assignments and quizzes comprise 15% of your grade. They will be given periodically to ensure students remain abreast with their readings. There will be no makeup quizzes or take-homes unless you can document extenuating circumstances such as hospitalization or family emergency. All take-home assignments will be submitted electronically by e-mail. Make sure to keep a carbon copy of each email transaction. Should you send your assignment to the wrong address or encounter an unexpected e-mail problem, this will save you from the frustration of having to retype your assignment from scratch.

Paper or essay assignment
There is a term paper that counts for 20% of your grade. Paper should be at least ten pages long (about 2500 words) with standard font and margin. Specific instruction about paper topic and structure will be given in class. Paper will be submitted both in hard copy and electronically as an email attachment. Students full name, instructor's full name, course title and number should appear on the top right corner of the first page. Paper should be stapled. Paper should have a title which must be centered and underlined. Failure to adhere to any of these basic formats will lower your paper grade by two points. For instance, a paper worth 18/20 will get 16/20 if found unstapled or lacking the instructor's name. Late paper will be penalized a point per day.

Group assignment
Group presentation weighs 15% of your grade. Between Oct. 8 and Oct. 29 there will be two weekly panels or group presentations based on the readings for that particular week. You will be informed two weeks in advance about your group composition and the nature and length of your presentation. Your grade will be determined on your performance both as a group and individual. If there is a problem in the group, such as a group member not fully cooperating, etc., you need to let me know immediately.

Midterm and final
Midterm and final exams will be take-home and are due on the scheduled dates. Questions or topics will be given at least a week before the due date. Together, both exams comprise 30% of your grade (or 15% each). No makeups in either case unless extenuating circumstances such as hospitalization can be documented.

Class participation
Class activity or participation constitutes 10% of your grade. Asking or answering questions, sharing one's observations or opinions during class discussion, are examples of class participation. Class discussions or debates are meant to sharpen students' analytical and reasoning skills, as well as to expose them to different perspectives. Political views have nothing to do with grades and students should feel free to express their opinions without feeling intimidated. However, derisive, disrespectful and spiteful comments toward a fellow student or the teacher create a hostile atmosphere and are not tolerated. Feel free to disagree with a particular point of view, but use a polite and formal language to assert your view. Remember to criticize the idea and not the individual who holds that idea. If you are new to St. Thomas or have not done this already, refer to STU's academic handbook to learn more about the policy on "mutual expectations" in the classroom.

Attendance takes up the remaining 10% of your grade. You are allowed a maximum of five absences. Each absence beyond that will lower your grade by a point. For instance, if you have fifteen absences, your grade for attendance will be zero. Attendance policy will not expire on the fifteenth absence, for you will continue to lose a percentage point on each successive no-show. Extenuating circumstances such as obligatory campus activities, family emergencies and health problems have to be documented to be excused, and even then the student has the responsibility to turn in all assignments on time.

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 acknowledged any borrowed idea, 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 in the course. Consult your academic handbook (pp. 237-38) for a detailed discussion on plagiarism.

Weekly Readings

Sept. 5. Cradle of human kind: introduction to African landscape, peoples, and language groups. Curtin: chapter l; Davidson: pp. 147.

Sept. 10-12. The Nile Valley Civilizations: Egypt, Nubia and Axum. (Curtin: chap. 2; Davidson: pp. 49-73.

Sept. 17-19. Medieval West Africa and state formation: Islam, Christianity and long distance trade. Curtin: chaps. 3 and 12; Davidson: pp. 82-118.

Sept. 24-26. Medieval East Africa: Indian Ocean commerce, city states, Swahili civilization and cultural synthesis, and the Portuguese interlude. Curtin: chaps. 4-5; Davidson: pp. 127-55.

Oct. 1-3. The Old World meets the New World: the trans-Atlantic slave trade and its consequences. Curtin: chaps. 6-7; Davidson: pp. 203-242.

Oct. 8-10. The African presence in South America and the West Indies. Harris: chaps. 5, 10, 12; Davidson: pp. 245-290.

Oct. 10. Midterm. Format will be announced two weeks in advance.

Oct. 15-17. The African presence in North America. Holloway: chaps. 5, 7-8, 10. A one-page proposal on paper topic due.

Oct. 22-24. African presence in Asia. Harris: chaps. 17-18. Pankhurst: chaps. 7-9. Paper bibliography due (need at least five sources; only one internet source is allowed).

Oct. 29-31. The search for a racial homeland: West Indian and African-American "back-to-Africa" movements. Harris: chaps. 3, 1920, 23. Annotated bibliography due.

Nov. 5-7. Africa in the "age of empire." Curtin: chaps. 9-11. Davidson: pp. 313-52.

Nov. 12-14. The scramble for Africa and the beginning of formal colonial rule. Curtin: chaps. 13-15.

Nov. 19-21. The political economy of colonialism. Curtin: chaps. 16-17; Davidson: pp. 405-38.

Nov. 21. Term paper due at the beginning of class.

Nov. 26-28. The African response: phases of Resistance, nationalism and independence. Curtin: chaps. 18 and 20; Harris: chaps. 21 and 24.

Dec. 3. Post-independence Africa in a global age: challenges and potentials. Class discussion.

Final exam: Dec. 12, 9:00 am.

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 teacher. Should the need arise, the teacher maintains the right to modify the course by adding, subtracting, or rearranging reading assignments and course requirements.

History 1006 - World History
History 4516 - Themes in African History

Fikru Gebrekidan / History / Faculty / St. Thomas Homepage