Harcourt Fuller, Ph.D.

HIST 4770 - Western Africa

Western AfricaHistorically and geopolitically, the sub-region of West (or Western) Africa is comprised of roughly twenty countries, including Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea (Conakry), Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Sénégal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Western Sahara, and the British possession of St. Helena. This course is a survey of West African history from the earliest times to the present.  Its primary purpose is to explore the central themes in the growth, development and continuation of West African indigenous civilizations.  Its secondary purpose is to trace the interactions between the indigenous and foreign civilizations, by depicting the ability of West African societies to adopt, absorb and utilize outside influences such as Islam, Christianity and European secular ideas. 

​The course - which spans a vast period in West African history - cannot be covered fully even within a year, much less within a semester; however, it will attempt to cover a great deal of ground by presenting a panoramic treatment of the major historical, political, social, cultural and religious themes and developments of West African societies.  Specifically, the course will trace: (1) the formation of states; (2) the growth of the Trans-Saharan Trade and the introduction of Islam; (3) the rise and fall of empires; (4) the Atlantic Slave Trade and its effects; (5) the jihadic movements; (6) the European colonization of West Africa, the spread of Christianity and modern Western education; (7) the growth of nationalism and struggle for independence; and (8) West Africa since independence. Although we will consider the history of the entire sub-region across linguistic and territorial borders, our primary country case studies will include Benin (formerly Dahomey), Ghana (formerly the Gold Coast), Guinea-Conakry (formerly French Guinea), Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo. We will also consider the historical, cultural and political connections between West Africa and the African Diaspora in the United States, the Caribbean and Latin America.

Required Texts
​Adu Boahen, ed. Africa under Colonial Domination, 1880 – 1935 (James Currey, 1990).

Basil Davidson, West Africa Before the Colonial Era: A History to 1850 (New York: Longman, 1998).

Emmanuel Akyeampong, ed., Themes in West Africa’s History (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006). 

Chinua Achebe, Anthills of Savannah (Heinemann, 1998).

Mariama Ba, So Long A Letter (Heinemann, New Ed edition, 2008)

Ousmane Sembéne, God's Bits of Wood (Longman, 2008).

D.T. Niane, 2006, Sundiata: An Epic of Old Mali, Revised Edition, Longman, UK

​Olaudah Equiano, 1999, The Life Of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African, Mineola NY, Dover Publications