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UO HIST 325 - Syllabus

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HIST 325: PRECOLONIAL AFRICA Fall 2014 – TR 10:00-11:20am, Lillis 175 – CRN 12930 Version 1.03, 1 Oct 2014 Professor: Dr. L. F. Braun Office: 311 McKenzie Hall Telephone: x6-4838 on-campus (email preferred) Email: [email protected] Office hours: T 3:45pm-5:00pm, R 11:45am-1:00pm, & by appointment Overview and Objectives Africa is central to human history. It is the continent where our species arose, where some of the greatest ancient civilizations throve, and where dynamic, complex, and innovative cultures confronted a variety of social, political, and environmental challenges. Many African states and societies were materially wealthier than their European counterparts until the 1700s, and Africa has always been connected—however tenuously at times—to the wider world. Yet in the popular, Eurocentric historical imagination in the U.S. and Europe, there is sparse knowledge of Africa’s own history, and it was rarely even considered a subject for historical study until the 1950s. For the period before European political dominion in Africa (c.1880-1960), this lack is even more pronounced. In this course we will explore the history of Africa between the 800s and the late 1800s, while at the same time discovering the logic behind African historical developments and tracing the broader implications of processes in African history. Our core themes in this course involve power, trade, and the production of social and cultural orders locally as well as the broader development of global systems around the African continent. No one course can cover more than a tiny sliver of the complexity and variety in Africa, home today to nearly a billion people, 55 nations, and thousands of communities of language and culture. We will deal primarily but not exclusively with regions now south of the formidable Sahara Desert, but the desert was hardly impregnable, and the wide influence of Africa made the edges of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans increasingly important over time. Students completing this course satisfactorily will, at minimum: - Develop a broad understanding of how various African societies evolved before the mid-1800s; - Discover the important position of precolonial Africa within local and global historical processes; - Interpret primary sources for major themes and episodes in African history within their own particular social, cultural, political, and economic contexts; and - Demonstrate the ability to analyze and discuss material dealing with Africa’s past in writing, with sensitivity to those African historical contexts. Although this course extends into the late 1800s, a large number of 19th-century developments relative to colonial empires, medicine, environment, religion, and production will be treated in HIST 326 this Spring, where they flow more neatly and logically into the modern period. I hope you will stay with us! An Important Note About This Syllabus Everything on this syllabus is important. Read it carefully and refer to it frequently. You alone are responsible for knowing its contents. The paper copy you receive at the beginning of the course is, ideally, the final version, but sometimes the unexpected intrudes and changes must be made. In all cases I will inform you of these changes and assure that an updated version is available and accessible on Blackboard. Pay attention to the version numbers if you are unsure which schedule is the latest, and don’t hesitate to contact me with questions.HIST 325 – Fall 2014 - 2Assignments and Grading Because African history requires the mastery of entirely new bodies of knowledge for most students, it is important for you not only to keep up with the reading but to think actively about it through analytical writing. Therefore, this course will incorporate three short papers (1200 to 1500 words, roughly 4 to 6 pages, adjudged by word count) on topics connected to the major course readings. These papers will be due on the dates indicated in the syllabus, and must conform to the instructions given a week or so prior. For guides to writing history, I would suggest M. L. Rampolla’s Pocket Guide to Writing History, 7th edition, which includes a citation guide as well as stylistic pointers that will greatly improve your work. These papers must be submitted via Blackboard, under “Assignments.” This course employs SafeAssign, and your enrollment in the course constitutes assent to the submission of your papers to it. Besides the papers, you will be required to complete a cumulative ID/essay based final examination, a map quiz the second week of the term, and the occasional pop quiz on the reading. The grade weighting breaks down as follows (out of 400+): Map Quiz 5% 20 pts Papers (3): 20% each (60%) 80 pts each (240) Final Exam (Cumulative): 25% 120 pts Participation/Quizzes: 5% (minimum*) 20 pts (or more*) (*Noteworthy participation—questions, comments, and observations in class, etc—might provide a small boost to a grade beyond the 5% standard. Excess quizzes may also cause this percentage to grow.) Course grades will be assigned according to percentages on the standard scale (90s = A range, 80s = B range, with 93 or more as an A, 90-92 as A-, 87-89 as B+, 83-87 as B, 80-82 as B-, 77-79 as C+, and so on), with fractional percentages rounded to the nearest percentage point (up or down). There is no standard percentage for the A+, which I award only in cases of extreme merit and at my sole discretion. As fair warning, I do not change paper, exam, or course grades, except in cases of arithmetical error. I am however always willing to discuss your grade and assist you if improvement is necessary. Please pay close attention to the important due dates & times, which are recapitulated in a list at the end of this syllabus. Late papers will be marked down 10% per 24 hours or portion thereof. No special midterms or finals will be arranged, except as required by University policy. You are responsible for your work reaching me in the format you intend, so please plan ahead. Course Texts The following books are required and can be purchased at the Duck Store or online from several retailers. Make sure you get the editions indicated because content and pagination vary dramatically. Older editions, especially of Shillington, will lead you badly astray. That’s why they cost so little on Amazon. - Collins, Robert O., ed., Documents from the African Past.


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