19th-20th c. Colonialism and Resistance
Colonization of Africa is usually taught as a broad concept with continent-wide generalities. In order to humanize this history and have an accurate and holistic understanding of the related but unique phenomena that took place, we focus on in-depth country studies and primary source research. This curated resource list contains lesson plans, visuals, teaching materials, and website links for teaching about and studying colonialism in Africa.
- African voices (not just restatement by others of African views) are crucial for understanding this period of history.
- Colonialism was a new stage in relationships that had been going on for 1,000 years between many of the Africans and Europeans.
- Conquest was by brutal force, sometimes by trickery, sometimes by “agreement”—so that African countries could bargain for some rights.
- Anti-Black Racism played a role in conquest and in colonial rule.
- Science played a role in conquest and in colonial rule. Mapping, for example, is related to domination of the continent.
- Religion (Christian missionary activity) played a role in conquest and in colonial rule.
- The colonial period was relatively short, roughly 1870–1960—but it has had a heavy and lasting impact on economic, social, and political affairs, leading to what Nkrumah called neocolonalism.”
- Colonialism fostered economic dependency, with long-term effects
- Colonialism was authoritarian and fostered indigenous authoritarian rule, with long-term effects
- Resistance took many forms. Beyond the violent/non-violent binary, resistance was expressed through demands for equality and freedom, religious opposition, economic and labor organization, mass protest, and war.
- Colonial rule led to resistance and, ultimately, to independence.
These select resources are a reminder to situate the colonial period in a much larger historical frame:
British Museum Interactive Timeline – amazing artifacts on a stunning timeline
Heilbrunn’s Timeline of Art History – extensive chronological timeline with contextual information about artifacts
Pre-colonial European Depictions of Africans (Boston University)
The Gold Road Project on the medieval empires of Ghana, Mali & Songhai (Howard University, Africa Access, Boston University)
African Perspectives on Colonialism (Boahen)
Colonization of Africa (Iweriebor, Africana Age)
Library of Congress Country Studies – includes many African countries
South African History Online (SAHO): A comprehensive website that provides information about the history of many African countries and contexts.
MAPS & CARTOGRAPHY
Afriterra cartographic archive with Zoomify technology
Maps of Africa throughout the centuries – South African history online
How Cartography helped make colonial Empires (Hyperallergic)
Defining lines: cartography in the age of empire Duke-UNC exhibit on cartography
NYT A Century Later: Letting African draw their own maps An 1997 Op-Ed that calls for a “Berlin II”; useful to understand the impact of the Berlin conference on DRC & Rwanda
Decolonizing Cartography – Elizabeth Sutton
To the Mountains of the Moon, Princeton University online mapping exhibit on Mapping African Exploration from 1541 to 1880.
What would it look like to decolonize cartography? (Hyperallergic)
FIRST WORLD WAR
Africa in 1914, from the British National Archives. A site full of primary sources along with context on African territories’ involvement in the war as well as resistances to colonial powers. Nigeria is a good example.
Decolonization Resource Collection (National History Center)
Less Scrambling, more Reflecting: Teaching about colonialism in Africa from the perspective of resistance by Bram Hubbel, February 9, 2019
African Resistance to Colonial Rule (Talten, Africana Age)
LITERATURE AND LANGUAGE
Select list of novels to teach about decolonization, Boston University.
Koze! Kreol and Colonialism Lesson Plan about colonialism impacting the language of Creole in the country of Mauritius
Lesson Plan courtesy of Deborah Johnson, a teacher at the Lakeside School in Seattle, WA
- Thematic Skit about decolonization based on the book “Weep Not Child”
Decolonising the Mind by Ngugi Wa Thiongo (1986) (Introduction & Chapters 1 & 2)
What Does Decolonize the Mind mean today by Mukoma Wa Ngugi, March 23, 2018
How Europe underdeveloped Africa by Walter Rodney (1973) (full text)
Decolonize, decoloniality and the future of African Studies: A Conversation with Dr. Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatcheni by Duncan Omanga, January 14, 2020.
Colonization and Independence in Africa (Brown Choices Program)
Nigeria: History, Identity, and Change (Brown Choices Program)
Freedom in our LifeTime: South Africa (Brown Choices Program)
Exploring Africa: The Era of Global Encroachment (Michigan State University online curriculum – free)
USEFUL FULL TEXT RESOURCES
A General History of Africa: Africa in the 19th c. until the 1880s. UNESCO, Volume VI. (Full text)
A General History of Africa: Africa under Colonial Domination UNESCO, Volume VII, 1880-1935 (Full text)
A General History of Africa: Africa since 1935. UNESCO, Volume VIII. (Full text)
- Africa and Europe (BBC – The Story of Africa)
- Read about the meeting of Europeans and Africans from two different perspectives:
- Two Different Perspectives on Colonialism:
The Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya
This page on the Mau Mau rebellion features lesson plans, activities, and primary sources. Access the page here.
Case Studies in Colonialism Lecture Series
The Boston University African Studies Center presents the Case Studies in Colonialism Lecture Series. The series seeks to challenge the misconception that colonialism was a universal experience across the African continent. These videos are suitable for upper high school and college students.
Case Studies in Colonialism: Algeria and Morocco
In the video below, Boston University Professor of History Diana Wylie warns of the danger of broad generalizations about colonialism in Africa. To illustrate the complexity and idiosyncrasies of colonialism found throughout the continent, Professor Wylie compares and contrasts the colonial experiences specifically in Algeria and Morocco.
Case Studies in Colonialism: Senegal
In the video below, Boston University Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the African Language Program Fallou Ngom focuses on the specificities of colonialism in Senegal and how Senegal’s unique history and culture shaped and were shaped by the colonial experience.