HI5044 - Power and Freedom: West African History, 1850 to 2010

What will I learn on this module?

This module is an introduction to the modern history of West Africa from 1850 to 2010. You will learn about major themes in the history of the region from Senegal to Nigeria, and key debates around how historians and others have represented West Africa. The module considers precolonial West African states, how and why the region was incorporated into European empires, and West Africans’ responses to colonial rule. You will assess how European colonial policies towards West Africa varied across time and space, how Africans challenged colonial rule to win independence in the 1950s and 1960s, and the challenges faced by newly self-governing nations. The module studies the vicissitudes of ‘structural adjustment’ in the region during the 1980s, and democratisation in West Africa from the 1990s.

You will explore the history of West Africa from political, social, and cultural perspectives, building an understanding of how politics affected everyday life, and vice versa. The module has a broadly chronological structure. In some weeks seminars focus on political history, while other weeks address aspects of society and culture including music, dress, and urban life.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn through lectures, seminars, and through engagement with carefully selected core readings. Lectures will introduce you to major themes in the history of West Africa. They will give you an overview of the chronology of key events, of similarities and differences across the West African region, and of key historiographical debates.

You will prepare for weekly seminars by undertaking set readings. These will include secondary readings written by scholars based in West Africa as well as those in other global regions, and excerpts from important primary sources. All readings will be available through Blackboard. At seminars you will explore historical case studies in detail. Seminars will include a range of tasks and activities including working as part of large and small groups. You will actively draw on your readings, lecture notes, and work from previous weeks to build up a detailed understanding of central issues in West African history. Seminars will give you the opportunity to discuss a range of primary sources, including newspaper articles, photographs, films, music, and government documents.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported by your module tutor, who will deliver lectures and seminars. Your module tutor will also be available for additional discussions about your progress in Feedback and Consultation hours and via email. You will receive formative feedback from the module tutor in seminars to help you develop your thinking. You will be supported through the resources made available through Blackboard and in the library. Fellow students will support you, through collaborative group work in seminars, and your programme leader will give you a clear sense of how your work on this module relates to your degree as a whole.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Knowledge and understanding of modern West African history.
2. Understanding of issues around the politics of representing West Africa.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Demonstrate a range of transferable skills, including the ability to form critical judgements, to analyse sources, to identify, assess, and present historical arguments.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4. Inherent in the module is consideration of the ethical dimensions around representing West Africa.
5. The module promotes cultural awareness and an appreciation of the place of race in modern history.

How will I be assessed?

2 x 2,500-word essays (MLOs 1–5)
These essays will be written in response to questions chosen from two thematic lists provided by the module tutor.

Formative feedback for each assessment will be provided in seminars. Verbal and written feedback will be given on all summative assessed work. Feedback on initial summative assessments will enable students to improve on later ones.





Module abstract

This module offers a wide ranging introduction to the modern history of West Africa. Covering the history of this fascinating region from 1850 to 2010, the module will give you the evidence and analytical skills to answer key questions in West African history. Why did precolonial West African states find it difficult to fight off European colonisation? How did European states seek to govern West Africa, and how did Africans respond? How did West Africans win independence in the 1950s and 1960s? What challenges did these new nations face, and what were their achievements? We will consider the political, social, and cultural history of West Africa, drawing on primary sources including newspaper articles, photographs, films, music, and government documents. The module will develop your research and analytical skills, and give you a detailed understanding of the modern history of West Africa.

Course info

UCAS Code T720

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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