Virtual Course on "African History through the Lens of Economics"

The Wheeler Institute, supported by STEG and CEPR, ran a virtual course entitled “African History through the Lens of Economics” in the spring of 2022.

Course Overview

This masterclass aims to familiarise students with insights of the recent, burgeoning literature on the impact of Africa’s history on contemporary development. Despite Africa’s recent growth miracle, there are vast regional - as well as ethnic and religious - inequalities that are linked to Africa’s dark past: slavery, colonial extraction, violence, cold-war-fueled conflict. This masterclass covers recent contributions in economic history that, using geospatial data from anthropological maps, colonial archives, secondary sources, and other sources, uncover the legacies of these phenomena. The course is interdisciplinary aiming to provide a forum of dialogue between economics, history, political science, cultural anthropology, even psychology.

There are ten 90-minute main lectures covering precolonial social and political organisation, Africa’s slave trades, the Scramble for Africa, colonisation, independence movements, the Cold War, and the Third Wave of Democratisation. The lectures are accompanied by eleven 75-minute supplementary special lectures, where guests present interdisciplinary research. These special sessions zoom in on issues including prison labour, the role of private concessionary companies during colonisation, Christian Missions, colonial tax policies, and delve into some country cases. There are also three plenary sessions, where guests join the teaching team discussing the controversy regarding foreign aid’s impact, the psychology of Africans in comparison to other continents, and the future of Africa.

The course syllabus and reading list can be found here. The course website can be found here.

Schedule of Lectures & Accompanying Resources:

Week 1: African Development. Contemporary and Historical

Week 2: Precolonial Africa. Political Organization and Mode of Subsistence Economy

Week 3: Social Structure

Week 4: The Slave Trades

Week 5: The Scramble for Africa

Week 6: Colonization I. Introduction & Human Capital

Week 7: Colonization II. Infrastructure & Extractive Institutions

Week 8: Colonization III. Decolonization and Early Independence

Week 9: Cold War, Third Wave of Democratization, and Recent Progress

Week 10: Persistence. Challenges & Opportunity

Week 11: Farewell & Conclusion. Looking Forward