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African History through the lens of Economics

An initiative by the Wheeler Institute
for Business and Development

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Course 0verview

This course covers recent contributions in economic history that, using geospatial data from anthropological maps, colonial archives and secondary sources, will explore current economic and development challenges by drawing parallels between the past and present. 

The lecture series was awarded the European Economic Association’s Award for Innovation in Teaching in 2023.

10 main lectures + 10 special lectures + 3 plenary sessions covering major aspects of African history every Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am ET / 3pm GMT / 4 pm WAT for 10 weeks starting on 1st February. Main Teaching Faculty include: Elias Papaioannou (London Business School)Leonard Wantchekon (Princeton University)Stelios Michalopoulos (Brown University), and Nathan Nunn (Harvard University.

About the course


Meet the teaching faculty and guest speakers


Read a series of blogs summarizing the lectures

Course Materials

Access the course materials and lecture recordings

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Open access

Our partners

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  • How do I access / register for the course?
    This course is free-of-charge and can be accessed by registering at the following link: Register for the Course.
  • Where do I find the link for the sessions?
    The links will be emailed to you once you have registered for the course. Please register here. You will also receive a reminder email 1 hour prior to each session containing the link.
  • How long are the sessions?
    The main lectures will last 90 minutes and the special lectures will last 75 minutes.
  • Who is this course for?
    This course is free-of-charge and open-access to students and professionals with an interest in economics, political science, history, sociology and economic development in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Do I have to attend all the sessions?
    No, you are free to attend the sessions as you please. However we do recommend you attend each session so that you can appreciate the team of (guest) lecturers we have assembled.
  • Will there be any coursework involved?
    No, the course will not involve any coursework, however we encourage all attendees to read the items we have highlighted on the reading list. The readings have been selected to give you a historical background and introduction to the research which will be discussed in the lectures.
  • Will the sessions be recorded?
    Yes, the sessions will be recorded and available on our website and via our YouTube channel. Please subscribe to be notified.
  • Where can I access the reading list and is there any pre-reading required?
    The readings have been selected to give you a historical background and introduction to the research which will be discussed in the lectures. Most of the papers can be accessed online. The reading list will be sent to you via email when you register and prior to the start of the lecture. You can also access it via our course website. Please download the course syllabus to access the most up to date reading list.
  • When does this course begin?
    This course begins on Tuesday 1 February 2022 and will run every Tuesday and Wednesday (with minor variations) until Wednesday 13 April 2022. Please refer to the tentative course schedule for specific timings each week.
  • Will this course be delivered in-person or online?
    This course will be delivered online via Zoom. Given the strong interest and large number of participants, we will use Zoom Webinar.
  • Where can I access the lecture slides of each session?
    The lecture slides will be uploaded as soon as they are available on our website under the Course Materials section.
  • How can I actively participate in the sessions?
    We will be doing our best to allow for interactions. We encourage all participants to post questions during the main and special lectures. We plan to devote considerable time addressing the most common ones. Considering the high number of registrations, every week we will send an email with suggestive responses to the most frequently asked questions during the lectures. We will also run questionnaires seeking your views on the historical events that economics research has studied. We have added review sessions with our Teaching Fellows to allow for more feedback and dialogue. For more information, please see the FAQ on Review Sessions.
  • Can I join Review Sessions? And when?
    One of our core objectives is to listen and allow for interaction. We have added review sessions to the course, which will take place for those keen to delve further into the materials discussed in the lectures of each week. A dedicated team of Teaching Fellows with a background in Economics, African History and Political Science (working in European, American, and African academic institutions) will run three open sessions every Friday from 18 February to 7 April and on Thursday 14 April. The joining details for the sessions will be emailed to you once you have registered for the course. If you have registered already, please also check our regular emails for further information.
  • Do I need economics training to join the sessions?
    No. Economics’ training will help but our goal is to abstract from econometric methods and economic theory and to make economics research accessible to a wider audience.
  • Is this a course on contemporary African economics, business, and politics?
    No. The course aims to familiarize students with insights into the recent, burgeoning literature in economics on the impact of Africa’s history on contemporary development. Our exclusive focus will be on the links between Africa’s past to current developments.
  • Will there be any training in business, accounting, marketing, finance, and other business and economics related subjects?
    No. The course will focus on how modern economic research tries shedding light on the contemporary legacy of history in Africa.
  • Is there a focus on a particular country or region?
    While we will cover applications and applied works zooming into some regions and countries, the goal of the course is, rather than focusing on a particular country or region, to highlight commonalities of the impact of historical legacies across mostly Sub-Saharan Africa. Of course, the history of Africa is complex and we hope that more research will shed light and understand these complexities.
  • Will there be certificates awarded after this course?
    This is not a formal course of neither LBS nor the academic institutions of the teaching team. However, for individuals who want their participation recognized, the Wheeler Institute will issue a letter recognising active participation. To receive this letter of participation, you need to complete: First questionnaire which is now closed. Second course assessment: which is now closed. The final questionnaire: to be completed by Tuesday 10 May, 5pm BST & WAT / 12pm EDT. Please check the last updates in our regular emails or please register for the course for more information.
  • Will the Wheeler Institute and the teaching team provide special access to academic papers?
    This is a purely online open-access lecture series. If some papers are behind an internet access wall (and thus inaccessible) we are afraid that we cannot provide access to them. However, we urge you to search for the papers online, as typically pre-publication drafts are available on the public domain.
  • What is the best way to contact us?
    We welcome questions on organization and context. And we hope to learn from you. Please contact us at If you have questions related to communications, marketing, and promotion, please email

All opinions expressed in this course by the speakers do not reflect the opinions of the Wheeler Institute for Business and Development, London Business School or affiliates or the institutions with which the speakers are affiliated, and may have been previously disseminated by them.  Should you have any questions or concerns about the subjects, opinions or information expressed in this session, please contact us at

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