Colonialism and Decolonisation in Africa: The Past in the Present.

12th March 2015.  
Paul Nugent, University of Edinburgh.

The seminar will take place in the College Lecture Theatre at 6.00 pm. The poster can be downloaded here.

To what extent does contemporary Africa still bear the legacies of the colonial period? Those who are inclined to argue in the affirmative tend to stress the importance of economic structures and the ongoing effects of policies of divide and rule. For those who are more sceptical, the colonial period was far too short to have had the consequences attributed to it. This lecture will argue that it is difficult to understand the dynamics of contemporary Africa without understanding what colonial states did, but also what they failed to do. The lecture falls into three sections. In the first, I consider the imperatives that motivated the various colonial regimes and the constraints under which they operated. In the second section, I consider the relationship between decolonization and the invention of something called 'development'. In the final section, I consider how many newly independent states attempted to redress what they regarded as the adverse legacies of colonialism - both in terms of weakly articulated economies and the lack of a sense of national unity. Many of the preferred solutions had unintended consequences of their own - some of which compounded the legacies in question. The lecture will conclude with some reflections on 'Africa rising' and the resurgence of secessionist movements.

Paul Nugent is Professor of Comparative African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of numerous books, including Africa Since Independence: A Comparative History.  He has worked in Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Gambia, Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. He is currently completing a book on the history of the South African wine industry, and another on borders and state-making in West Africa. He is the chair of the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) and the president of AEGIS, the European African Studies association. He is also the co-editor of the Journal of Modern African Studies.








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