African History through the lens of Economics

African History through the Lens of Economics

In collaboration with historians, political scientists, and anthropologists, we designed an open-access, interdisciplinary lecture series to study the impact of Africa’s history on contemporary development. 

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)

Main teaching faculty

Elias Papaioannou
Professor of Economics,  London Business School
Academic Director, Wheeler Institute for Business and Development
Research Affiliate, CEPR
Leonard Wantchekon
Professor of Politics and International Affairs,
Princeton University
Associated Faculty in Economics
Research Affiliate, NBER
Nathan Nunn
Frederic E. Abbe Professor of Economics at Harvard University
Research Affiliate, NBER
Stelios Michalopoulos
Professor of Economics,
Brown University
Research Associate, NBER
Research Affiliate, CEPR

Guest lecturers

Visual Portfolio, Posts & Image Gallery for WordPress

Course syllabus

LectureDateTeaching facultyAdditional session
Lecture 1: African Development and History1 & 2 February Elias Papaioannou Guest lecture: Tanner ReganLong-run trends of development in Africa
February 2
– Morten Jerven
– Ewout Frankema
– Marlous van Waijenburg
Lecture 2: Precolonial Africa. Economic and Political Organization8 & 9 FebruaryStelios MichalopoulosOn Origins of African States
February 9
– Marcella Alsan
– James Fenske
Lecture 3: Social Structure [kinship, family, social relations]15 & 16 February Nathan NunnUnderstanding African Societies
February 16
– Awa Seck
– Christopher Ehret
Lecture 4: Slave Trades22 & 23 FebruaryNathan NunnSlave Trades
February 23
*Starting time: 11am ET / 4pm GMT
– Patrick Manning
– Ugo Nwokeji
Lecture 5: Scramble for Africa1 & 2 MarchStelios MichalopoulosCountry Focus
March 2
– Nonso Obikili (Nigeria)
– Johan Fourie (South Africa)
Lecture 6: Colonization. Introduction. Human Capital and Infrastructure8 & 9 MarchElias Papaioannou and Leonard WantchekonThe Political Economy of Missionary Activity
March 9
– Etienne Le Rossignol
– Catherine Guirkinger
Lecture 7: Colonization. Institutions15 & 16 MarchElias PapaioannouColonial Infrastructure and Repression
March 16

– Roland Pongou
– Belinda Archibong
Lecture 8: Decolonization and Early Independence22 & 23 MarchLeonard WantchekonColonial Taxation. Origins, Structure, and Implications
March 23
– Jutta Bolt (Local state capacity)
– Leigh Gardner (taxation)
Lecture 9: Cold War, Third Wave of Democratization, and Recent Progress29 & 30 MarchLeonard WantchekonPrivateer Colonization
March 30
– Giorgio Chiovelli
– Sara Lowes
Lecture 10: Conclusion. Persistence and Opportunity5 & 6 AprilFull teaching teamPlenary Session 1: Foreign Aid
April 6
– Bill Easterly
– Celestin Monga
Farewell: Looking forward12 & 13 AprilPlenary session 2: Africa’s Latent Assets and the Future
April 13
– James Robinson
– Chima J. Korieh
Plenary session 3: Africa: WEIRD or not?
April 13
– Joe Henrich

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.

Where do I find a link to join the online sessions?

The links will be emailed to you once you have registered for the course. Please register here. If you haven’t received an email, please contact us at

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.

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