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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : History

Undergraduate Course: Borders, Frontiers and State-Making in Africa c.1750 to the Present (HIST10487)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits40 ECTS Credits20
SummaryHow have Africa's port cities, land borders and political structures been shaped by the slave trades, colonial partition and the appropriation of the nation-state model at independence, and how have populations affected by these processes responded creatively to shape the outcomes? This course addresses this question in a comparative fashion, drawing on cases from across the continent. It covers histories of states and statelessness, urbanism, trade/smuggling and mobilities (including migration and flight).
Course description This course offers a comparative history of processes of state-making and space-making in different regions of Africa from the mid-eighteenth century to the present. It considers the role of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean slave trades in the emergence of globally-connected port cities, the creation of frontiers of enslavement and flight within Africa, and the interface between extractive states and stateless societies. From there it proceeds to an examination of the dynamics and consequences associated with the partition of Africa and the efforts of colonial states to define borders and control the flows of people, goods and diseases. Particular attention will be paid to countervailing efforts to evade and subvert colonial border controls and to the vibrancy of cross-border cultural life, especially in port and border cities.

In the second semester, consideration will be given to the reasons why plans for continental unity and larger territorial federations stalled and why colonial borders were mostly retained at the point of independence. The attempted breakaway of Biafra from Nigeria will be serve as a case-study of the reasons why secessionist ideas gained traction and why they ultimately failed as political projects. The course will also explore the reasons why other kinds of insurgencies have tended to incubate in borderlands. The course will also pay particular attention to the lived social and economic life of borderlands, with a focus on peripheral urbanism, trade/smuggling and patterns of forced and voluntary migration in the contemporary period.

The course will turn largely on academic debates arranged around the core themes. In addition, students will be encouraged to engage with a selection of primary sources in the shape of maps, documents, literature and film.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements A pass in 40 credits of third level historical courses or equivalent.

Before enrolling students on this course, Personal Tutors are asked to contact the History Honours Admission Administrator to ensure that a place is available (Tel: 504030).
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate competence in core skills in the study of History: engagement with documentary and literary sources, essay-writing, independent reading, group discussion, oral presentation, small-group autonomous learning
  2. Exhibit a nuanced understanding of key concepts relating to frontiers, borders and states and their role in African history
  3. Critically engage with debates on state- and space-making in African history, relating to topics such as urban dynamics, migration and trade
  4. Deliver formal presentations, lead and contribute to discussions in relation to course topics
  5. Plan and execute substantial written analyses of chosen aspects of the course from the eighteenth century to the present
Reading List
A.I. Asiwaju (ed.) Partitioned Africans: Ethnic Relations Across Africa's International Boundaries, 1884-1984 (1985).
Julia Clancy-Smith, Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c.1800-1900 (2010).
Mariana P. Candido (ed.), An African Slaving Port and the Atlantic World: Benguela and its Hinterland (2013).
Didier Gondola, Tropical Cowboys: Westerns, Violence and Masculinity in Kinshasa (2016).
Igor Kopytoff (ed.), The African Frontier: The Reproduction of Traditional African Societies (1987).
John Markakis, Ethiopia: The Last Two Frontiers (2013).
James McDougall and Judith Scheele (eds.), Saharan Frontiers: Space and Mobility in Northwest Africa (2012).
Joseph Miller, Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Atlantic Slave Trade (1988).
Francis Musoni, Border-Jumping and Migration Control in Southern Africa (2020).
Paul Nugent, Boundaries, Communities and State-Making in West Africa: The Centrality of the Margins (2019).
Gufu Oba, Nomads in the Shadows of Empires: Contests. Conflicts and Legacies on the Southern Ethiopian-Northern Kenyan Frontier (2013).
Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sozaboy (1994).
Jelmer Vos, Kongo in the Age of Empire, 1860-1913: the Breakdown of a Moral Order (2015).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills On successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

- read, process and engage critically with a range of historical scholarship relevant to the course

- have a good conceptual understanding of frontiers, borders and borderlands and be able to relate this to the African material

- engage in historical comparison

- present their ideas and analyses in a coherent fashion to diverse audiences and in a number of different formats.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Paul Nugent
Tel: (0131 6)50 3879
Course secretaryMiss Katherine Shaw
Tel: (0131 6)50 8349
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