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 will cover 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. 

10 main lectures + 10 special and plenary sessions covering major aspects of African history every Tuesday and Wednesday from 10am ET / 3pm GMT 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.


Open access


Tentative course schedule

Teaching faculty
Additional session
Lecture 1: African Development and History
1 & 2 February
Elias Papaioannou Guest lecture: Tanner Regan
February 2: Long-run trends of development in Africa with Morten Jerven, Ewout Frankema and Marlous van Waijenburg
Lecture 2: Precolonial Africa. Economic and Political Organization
8 & 9 February
Stelios Michalopoulos
February 9: On Origins of African States with Marcella Alsan and James Fenske
Lecture 3: Social Structure [kinship, family, social relations]
15 & 16 February
Nathan Nunn
February 16: Understanding African Societies with Awa Seck and Christopher Ehret
Lecture 4: Slave Trades
22 & 23 February
Nathan Nunn
February 23: Slave Trades with Patrick Manning and Ugo Nwokeji [Starting time: 11am ET / 4pm GMT]
Lecture 5: Scramble for Africa
1 & 2 March
Stelios Michalopoulos
March 2: Country Focus with Nonso Obikili (Nigeria) and Johan Fourie (South Africa)
Lecture 6: Colonization. Introduction. Human Capital and Infrastructure
8 & 9 March
Elias Papaioannou and Leonard Wantchekon
March 9: The Political Economy of Missionary Activity with Etienne Le Rossignol and Catherine Guirkinger
Lecture 7: Colonization. Institutions.
15 & 16 March
Elias Papaioannou
March 16: Colonial Infrastructure and Repression with Roland Pongou and Belinda Archibong
Lecture 8: Decolonization and Early Independence
22 & 23 March
Leonard Wantchekon
March 23: Colonial Taxation. Origins, Structure, and Implications with Jutta Bolt (Local state capacity) and Leigh Gardner (taxation)
Lecture 9: Cold War, Third Wave of Democratization, and Recent Progress
29 & 30 March
Leonard Wantchekon
March 30: Privateer Colonization with Giorgio Chiovelli and Sara Lowes
Lecture 10: Conclusion. Persistence and Opportunity.
5 & 6 April
Full teaching team
April 6 Plenary Session 1: Foreign Aid with Bill Easterly and Celestin Monga
Farewell: Looking forward
12 & 13 April
April 12 Plenary session 2: Africa's Latent Assets and the Future with James Robinson and Chima J. Korieh
April 13 Plenary session 3: Africa: WEIRD or not? with Joe Henrich

More to be confirmed...


Our partners

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Frequently asked questions

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Will the sessions be recorded?

Yes, the sessions will be recorded and sent to all participants after the lecture. They will also be published on this website and on YouTube.

Will this course be delivered in-person or online?

This course will be delivered fully online. You can find the tentative course schedule on our website.

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.