Capstone Seminar: Violence in Africa's History


A lack of historical knowledge about Africa sustains a long-standing stereotype of Africa as a place of violence. A definition of violence may seem obvious—violence is bodily harm and its aftermaths wrought by one or more persons against one more others. But that definition masks the moral struggles over the legitimacy of violence. And it masks the extent to which historians can only study violence in its aftermaths, because the available sources were generated after the violence in question. Because violence involves the perspectives of perpetrators, victims, and witnesses—each of whom represent their involvement with violence in its aftermaths—explaining its causes and consequences must address historically specific motivations and constraints. Struggles over the morality and legitimacy of violence shaped the later forms it took in African history. We'll work on posing better questions about the intended and unintended transformative consequences of violence by considering slavery, enslavement, and slave trading and their legacies in Ghana and the dynamics of colonial violence in Kenya. With this ground cleared, students will pose, develop, and explore a historical problem focused on one of those two periods of violence in Africa’s past drawing on a set of primary sources.

Curriculum Codes: 

CZ, EI, R, SS, W

Theme (Concentration)

Law and Governance


Africa & the Middle East