African History through the Lens of Economics: Important course information

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. 

How to join

This course will be run virtually via Zoom. Throughout the 11 weeks, every lecture can be accessed using the same zoom link. Please find the joining link below.

Zoom link:
Passcode: 114289

Course timings

This course will take place every Tuesday and Wednesday at 10am ET / 3pm GMT starting Tuesday 1 February. *Minor variations do occur. Please note sessions in purple.

DateTimeTopicZoom link
Tuesday 1 February10am ET / 3pm GMTIntroduction: African development and historyJoin here
Wednesday 2 February 10am ET / 3pm GMT Long-run trends of development in AfricaJoin here
Tuesday 8 February10am ET / 3pm GMT Precolonial Africa. Political OrganizationJoin here
Wednesday 9 February10am ET / 3pm GMT On origins of African StatesJoin here
Thursday 10 February10 am ET. 3pm GMTMapping Contemporary African Development  Join here
Tuesday 15 February 10am ET / 3pm GMT Social Structure [kinship, family, social relations]Join here
Wednesday 16 February10am ET / 3pm GMT Understanding African StudiesJoin here
Thursday 17 February10am ET / 3pm GMT African History through the Lens of Leonard Wantchekon Join here
Tuesday 22 February10am ET / 3pm GMT The slave tradesJoin here
Wednesday 23 February 11am ET / 4pm GMT The slave trades’ impact on population and AfricansJoin here
Tuesday 1 March 10am ET / 3pm GMT The scramble for AfricaJoin here
Wednesday 2 March 10am ET / 3pm GMT A closer look at South Africa and Nigeria from colonizationJoin here
Tuesday 8 March 10am ET / 3pm GMT Colonization I. IntroductionJoin here
Wednesday 9 March10am ET / 3pm GMT On the legacy of Christian missionsJoin here
Tuesday 15 March 11am EDT / 3pm GMT Colonization I. Introduction. Human capital and infrastructure Join here
Wednesday 16 March11am EDT / 3pm GMT Colonial infrastructure and repressionJoin here
Tuesday 22 March 11am EDT / 3pm GMT Colonization II. Infrastructure and extractionJoin here
Wednesday 23 March11am EDT / 3pm GMTLocal Government and Tax CapacityJoin here
Wednesday 30 March12pm EDT / 5pm BSTColonial concessionsJoin here
Thursday 31 March4pm EDT / 9 pm BST31st Annual Kuznets Memorial Lecture: Political Distortions and Economic DevelopmentJoin here
Tuesday 5 April10am EDT / 3pm BSTConclusion: Persistence and opportunityJoin here
Wednesday 6 April10am EDT / 3pm BST Plenary session 1: Foreign aidJoin here
Tuesday 12 April10am EDT / 3pm BST Plenary session 2: Africa’s latent assets and the futureJoin here
Wednesday 13 April10am EDT / 3pm BST Plenary session 3: Conclusion and Africa: WEIRD or not?Join here

Course syllabus and readings

  • Course syllabus and pre-readings: Please download the course syllabus for access to the course schedule and pre-readings for each session. 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.

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 sessions?

The links will be emailed to you once you have registered for the course. Please register hereYou 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 by 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 session 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 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.

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. Pleaser refer to the course schedule above for specific timings each week.

Will this course be delivered online or in person?

This course will be delivered virtually via zoom.

Where can I access the course syllabus and pre-readings?

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 following this link: Course syllabus and pre-reading or via our course website.

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: the first course questionnaire by Friday, 4 March, 5pm GMT / 6pm WAT / 12pm ET; two course assessments, one in week 4/5; and the second one in week 9/10,and a final questionnaire.

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