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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Lynn M. Thomas
HIST 151
Seattle Campus

Introduction to African History, c. 1000-1880

Examines Africa's past from approximately 1000 to 1880. Through the theme of the politics of wealth, explores the history of precolonial states and societies, religious movements that combined local beliefs with Islam and Christianity, the Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades, and the origins of American and European colonialism.

Class description

This course will introduce you to the history of Africa from approximately 1000 to 1850. The period encompasses the rise and decline of powerful kingdoms and city-states as well as the proliferation of less hierarchical chiefdoms and acephalous societies. It also encompasses the spread of influential religious movements that often combined indigenous beliefs with those of Islam and Christianity; the rise and eventual abolition of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades; and the origins of American and European colonialism. We will aproach these topics and others through the theme, the politics of wealth. By focusing on what people in the past valued and sought to control, we will consider questions central to the study of African history: how have Africans defined wealth and how have these definitions changed over time and from one place to another? How have differences in wealth shaped relations of power within African communities? And how have efforts to acquire wealth informed relations between African communities, and between these communities and the wider world? We will pay particular attention to how relations of wealth and power have depended upon and encouraged distinctions based in gender, age, caste, ancestry, occupation, religion, language, race, and ethnicity. In exploring these issues, we will draw upon primary sources, including an epic, various travelers' and traders' accounts, an autobiography, a life history, and two historical novels as well as secondary works produced by historians and an archeologist. We will pay special attention to the strengths and limitations of each of these types of sources in helping us to understand Africa's pasts.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

No prerequisites.

Class assignments and grading

Class assignments and grading will be outlined in the course syllabus.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Edmund K. Kamai
Date: 05/28/2002