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

Undergraduate Course: African Environmental History (HIST10505)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the human-nature interaction in Africa from the Neolithic revolution through colonialism to post-independence. It examines how humans have interacted with nature to shape both landscapes and human relations.
Course description This course explores the interaction between humans, flora and fauna in the history of Africa. This is done in three distinct phases, (1) The pre-1800 period characterised by the origins of indigenous agriculture and contact with the Atlantic World, (2) The nineteenth and twentieth centuries when the African environment was under colonial domination, and (3) The post-independence period. In the first phase, the course examines the origins of indigenous agriculture, paying attention to the domestication of animals and plants. It further explores the spread of new crops to Africa. In the second phase, the course explores the environmental history of the continent during colonial rule, focusing on how the natural environment shaped relationships amongst the state, peasants and settler communities and how these interacted with nature. It explores various themes like animal diseases and the environment, wildlife policies and peasant reaction, forestry conservation, fisheries management, agriculture and soil conservation, and drought and famine ecologies. The last phase examines resource based conflicts and land reform and the environment in post-independent Africa.

Content note: The study of History inevitably involves the study of difficult topics that we encourage students to approach in a respectful, scholarly, and sensitive manner. Nevertheless, we remain conscious that some students may wish to prepare themselves for the discussion of difficult topics. In particular, the course organiser has outlined that the following topics may be discussed in this course, whether in class or through required or recommended primary and secondary sources: drought and famine ecologies, natural resources and resource-based conflicts. While this list indicates sensitive topics students are likely to encounter, it is not exhaustive because course organisers cannot entirely predict the directions discussions may take in tutorials or seminars, or through the wider reading that students may conduct for the course.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students must have progressed to Honours. Students should only be enrolled on this course with approval from the History Honours Programme Administrator
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 3 History courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 11, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 11, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework:
1,000 word essay (35%)
3,000 word essay (45%)

Non-Written Skills:
Oral presentation (20%)
Feedback Students will receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during their published office hours for this course or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. write a discursive analysis on the subject of African environmental history.
  2. analyse sources, narratives, and arguments used in African environmental history.
  3. reflect critically on the role of colonial environmental policies in shaping human nature interaction in Africa.
  4. explain how historical events have been influenced by the natural environment.
  5. identify drivers of environmental change in the history of Africa.
Reading List
Beinart, W. "African History and Environmental History." African affairs. 99. 395 (2000): 269-302.

McCann, J. Green Land, Brown Land, Black Land: an Environmental History of Africa, 1800-1990. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 1999.

Stalker, H. T. et al. Harlan's Crops and Man: People, Plants and Their Domestication. Third edition. Wiley, 2021.

McCann, J. Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.

Ofcansky, T.P. "The 1889-97 Rinderpest Epidemic and the Rise of British and German Colonialism in Eastern and Southern Africa." Journal of African studies 8.1 (1981): 31-38.

Schauer, J. Wildlife Between Empire and Nation in Twentieth-Century Africa. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2019.

Hansen, C. P. "To Reserve or Not to Reserve: The Battle over Forest Conservation in the Gold Coast, 1889-1927." Journal of historical geography (2022).

McCracken, J. "Fishing and the Colonial Economy: The Case of Malawi." Journal of African history 28.3 (1987): 413-429.

Showers, K. B. Imperial Gullies: Soil Erosion and Conservation in Lesotho. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2005.

Clark, A. F. "Environmental Decline and Ecological Response in the Upper Senegal Valley, West Africa, from the Late Nineteenth Century to World War I." Journal of African history 36.2 (1995): 197-218.

Alao, A. Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa: The Tragedy of Endowment. Suffolk: Boydell & Brewer, 2012.

Greiner, C. "Pastoralism and Land-Tenure Change in Kenya: The Failure of Customary Institutions." Development and change 48.1 (2017): 78-97.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Analytical and critical thinking skills

Oral communication skills, through seminar participation and presentations

Ability to work in a group, as part of seminar presentations

Written communication skills

Ability to critically interpret primary source materials and to synthesize secondary literature
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Tinashe Takuva
Tel: (01316) 502368
Course secretaryMrs Ksenia Gorlatova
Tel: (0131 6)50 8349
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