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Africa and the Cold War (HI277)

Module convenors: David Anderson

Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto and Leonid Brezhnev on a mural wall in Luanda, 1970s
[Image: Fidel Castro, Agostinho Neto, and Leonid Brezhnev on a wall mural in Luanda, Angola, 1970s]

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This 30 CATS second-year option module introduces students to major debates in the history of the Cold War in Africa, aiming to set these issues within their historical, social and cultural contexts over the period from 1945 to the 1990s. After the opening weeks set up the context of decoloniation and superpower rivalry in Africa, the rest of the course takes a roughly chronological apporoach to explore various case studies and thematic issues. We will look in depth at upheavals in Congo and Zanzibar which demonstrated the fragile state of the continent immediately after decolonisation, the wars in Angola and the Horn of Africa, and the attempts of the white minority regimes in Rhodesia, South Africa, and the Portuguese colonies to retain power. While the course pays close attention to the policies of the United States and the Soviet Union, it also highlights the role played by other Cold War actors, like China and Cuba. Moreover, we will uncover the agency exercised by Africans in the global Cold War: were they simply superpower proxies or did they turn the Cold War order to their own advantage? Finally, the course will consider the aftermath of the Cold War in Africa: did the fall of the Berlin Wall bring a new dawn to the continent or did it reignite frozen conflicts in the 1990s?