HSTAFM 152 A: Introduction to African History, c. 1880 - Present

Winter 2022
TTh 3:00pm - 4:50pm / MUE 155
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):



60th anniversary re-enactment of women's protest during Women's War of 1929, Aba, Nigeria. Courtesy National Museum of Uyo. Fair use image. To learn more, see BlackPast 

Professor Lynn M. Thomas, History Department 

T and Th 3-4:50 pm, MUELLER 155 (in person since 2/1)

Office hours:  immediately after class on Tuesday and Thursday; and by appointment, please email me at lynnmt@uw.edu to arrange

Welcome! This course will introduce you to the history of Africa from roughly 1880 to the present. These years encompass European colonization and African resistance to it, the emergence of independent African nations, and the ongoing challenges and achievements of the postcolonial period.

All too often, Americans assume that Africa is all the same across the continent, that its past has included much more continuity than change, and that its present includes nothing but bad news. A major objective of this course is to combat such stereotypes by examining:

  • diversity both across the continent and within particular countries,
  • the enormous changes that African societies have participated in over the past 140 years, and
  • Africans’ agency in addressing the issues that shape their lives.

Our objective is to study the complexities and specificities of African history so that we can better understand Africa today.

A second objective of this course is to strengthen skills of analysis and communication. History, as a discipline, teaches skills that are essential to your success as a university student, professional employee, and citizen of the world. These skills include:

  • questioning assumed knowledge,
  • examining sources carefully and critically,
  • constructing evidence-based arguments,
  • placing current events in historical perspective, and
  • communicating effectively in both written and oral form.

We will tackle these two objectives – one content-based and one skills-based – through a unique and exciting approach: African History in Real Time. This course is “in real time” because we’re meeting synchronously. It’s also “in real time” because we’ll be placing current events in Africa – that you identify, select, and research – in historical perspective.

The first four weeks of this course will provide you with an overview of the past 140 years of African history and various representations of that history. The remaining six weeks will be devoted to identifying current events from on-line news sources and then diving in deep to learn more about those events and the histories that produced them through scholarly sources, lectures, and discussions.

Acknowledgements: I’m grateful to Professor Carina Ray of Brandeis University for providing the model and inspiration for this course. I’m also grateful to UW Librarians Theresa Mudrock and Jessica Albano, and History Graduate Students Taylor Soja and Emily Lantz for all of their assistance in developing and implementing it.



There’s only one required book for this course: John Parker and Richard Rathbone, African History: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University, 2007). It’s available as an e-book through UW Libraries.

All other readings for this course are freely available on the web, as pdfs posted in the Canvas readings file [CRF], and as e-books through UW Libraries. See links below in the week-by-week class schedule and in modules on Canvas.

Synchronous Meetings, Recordings, and Class Participation

This class will meet synchronously twice per week, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3-4:50 pm (PST). I’ve opted for the synchronous format because this course involves a lot of discussion-based work and presentations in small and large groups. Such work, I believe, will enable us to build a strong learning community despite being remote.

Participation in our synchronous class sessions is a vital aspect of this course. You are expected to come to class on-time and prepared to participate in an engaged and respectful manner. This means being ready to discuss and debate assigned readings. Your participation grade will be based on your contributions during our class meetings. It will count for a maximum of 20 points out of the course total of 200 points.

Our synchronous meeting will be recorded in Zoom (when we are online) and in Panopto (when we are in-person). Thus, if something unexpected comes up – such as an illness, disrupted connectivity, or a family emergency – and you miss class, you’ll be able to watch the recording to catch up. I understand that such events are more likely to occur this quarter given our pandemic circumstances. As a teacher, I am committed to working with you in these trying times to ensure your success at UW. Please let me know if a situation arises that requires you to miss more than one synchronous class in a row.

If anything comes up that you’d like to discuss related either to course content or your ability to participate in class or complete assigned work, I encourage you to come to my office hour (Th 1:30-2:20) or, if that time doesn’t suit your schedule, email me (lynnmt@uw.edu) to set up an alternative time to meet. When we are in-person, I’m almost always happy to meet right after class. Successful teaching and learning depends on clear and consistent communication between all of us so let’s make that happen!

Quizzes and Assignments

Quizzes and assignments will count for a maximum of 180 points of the course total of 200 points. Out of those 180 points, 35 will be determined by work in small groups; all other grades will be individually assigned.

Below and on our Canvas site, you’ll find more information about quizzes and assignments including due dates, instructions, and maximum points. All quizzes and written assignments will be submitted through Assignments on our Canvas site. All quizzes and assignments – apart from the map quiz – are “open book” (i.e. you can reference readings and your notes while doing them). While you are welcome and even encouraged to discuss the non-group assignments with peers and others, the written work you submit should be your own. UW policies regarding plagiarism and cheating will apply in this class (please see attachment).

Except in cases where I’ve authorized exceptions, late assignments will receive a 10% deduction for each day after the due date. If challenges arise and you find it difficult to meet a due date, please let me know as soon as possible so that we can determine whether an exception should apply.

“W” Credit

Students taking this course for “W” credit will be required to revise, expand, and resubmit the History Matters essay for Project One. The final grade for that essay will then be an average between the grade on the original and the revision. The revision will be due one week after “W” students receive the graded original.


For your final course grade, your point total (out of 200 points) will be converted to the 4.0 scale according to this chart:

200-190 = 4.0

177-176 = 3.3

163-162 = 2.6

149-148 = 1.9

135-134 = 1.2

189-188 = 3.9

175-174 = 3.2

161-160 = 2.5

147-146 = 1.8

133-132 = 1.1

187-186 = 3.8

173-172 = 3.1

159-158 = 2.4

145-144 = 1.7

131-130 = 1.0

185-184 = 3.7

171-170 = 3.0

157-156 = 2.3

143-142 = 1.6

129-128 = .9

183-182 = 3.6

169-168 = 2.9

155-154 = 2.2

141-140 = 1.5

127-126 = .8

181-180 = 3.5

167-166 = 2.8

153-152 = 2.1

139-138 = 1.4

125-124 = .7

179-178 = 3.4

165-164 = 2.7

151-150 = 2.0

137-136 = 1.3

<.7 = 0


Catalog Description:
Examines Africa's pasts from approximately 1880 to the present. Through the theme of the politics of wealth, explores the history of European colonization, African social and cultural life under colonial rule, anti-colonial movements and decolonization, and the changes and challenges of the post-colonial present.
GE Requirements Met:
Diversity (DIV)
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
April 11, 2024 - 4:26 pm