The Department of History at UNC offers a range of classes on African history from the pre-modern period to the present, including undergraduate lecture courses and seminars as well as courses at the graduate level. While all classes treat the political, economic, and cultural forces that have shaped sub-Saharan Africa from within, Africanist faculty members place an equal emphasis on the fundamental ways such internal processes have affected patterns of global history. Subjects such as the Atlantic slave trade, twentieth-century colonialism, and the rise and decline of apartheid in South Africa underscore the diversity of historical connections Africa has had with the rest of the world. By engaging with the continent’s social, cultural, and intellectual history, students learn that Africa’s past is a fascinating subject on its own terms, as well as an important feature in the study of world history.
Courses in African history count towards the major concentration in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern history.
UNC’s PhD program in African history is characterized by a dynamic, nurturing faculty; broad and deep training in the field; outstanding opportunities for comparative study in complementary fields and disciplines; and extensive additional resources available through UNC’s federally funded African Studies Center. Core faculty members Emily Burrill, Lauren Jarvis and Lisa Lindsay focus on Nigeria and the Atlantic World, Mali, and South Africa respectively; they are also particularly attuned to themes of transnationalism, gender, politics, slavery, and religion.
African history Ph.D. students take a combination of required courses in African historiography and research methods; topical courses on Africa that vary annually and are shaped by student needs and faculty interests; individual tutorials; and related courses in other fields and/or departments. Students may pursue training in African languages, typically funded through Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships. Additionally, Africanist faculty and graduate students from area universities convene regularly for the Triangle African Studies Seminar as well as other seminars, colloquia, talks, and events; UNC graduate students have access to faculty and library resources at Duke, NC State, and NC Central Universities.
Students will typically conduct pre-dissertation research in Africa in the summers following their first and second years. Preliminary examinations occur in the third year, followed by dissertation research. For information on the African field graduate comprehensive exams, please consult the Graduate Student Handbook.