Advanced Paper Synopsis

Economy and Society in Colonial Africa, c. 1880 to 1960

(Dr Jan-Georg Deutsch, Lecturer in Commonwealth History, St Cross College)
Hilary Term
Timings and venue – contact convenor


The period of colonial rule in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa was only brief, but is thought to have profoundly and irreversibly transformed the continent. One important aspect of that transformation concerned the changes in the organisation of production and commercial exchange, which is the subject of this course.  
The main aim of this course is to encourage students to think creatively about the intricate relationship between changes occurring in the economic sphere - that is changes in the organisation of labour, production, and commercial exchange - and those taking place in the social sphere - that is in the realm of society, culture and politics. The starting points for the analysis are particular instances of change in the organisation of labour under colonial rule. It will be asked how these changes came about, whether these were imposed by the colonial state from above or initiated by the colonial subjects themselves from below, and what these changes had meant for the societies concerned, their social structures and political institutions, their belief systems and social values, in particular local figurations of class and gender relations. The course is meant to be an open inquiry into the making of contemporary Africa.
8 weekly tutorials or classes of 90 minutes will be held in Hilary Term, with an introductory orientation meeting at the end of Michaelmas Term. Students are expected to read widely for and participate actively in each class session. They are also required to prepare brief presentations on subjects of their choice in consultation with their tutor. In most cases, these presentations will form the basis for the preparation of the tutorial essays. Students will receive a more detailed reading list at the orientation meeting in Michaelmas Term.

For a general introduction, see Parker, J. and R. Rathbone, African History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2007).