HIS511 logo Instructions for Assignments
Fall 2010

Instructor: Jim Jones
Email: jjones@wcupa.edu; Telephone: 610-436-2168
Office: 519 Main Hall, West Chester, PA 19383
Hours: M-W-F 10-10:45 & Thur 3-5:45pm, and by appointment

Return to HIS 511 syllabus


A scholarly book review is intended to provide you with an opportunity to learn more about any aspect of African history. To complete it successfully, you must read and understand the book's subject and the author's argument, clearly describe it in writing, and provide your analysis of the sources and method used by the author. Although literary skill is not a prerequisite, your writing must be clear, well organized, and free of errors of spelling, grammar or punctuation.

1. Choose a scholarly book published since 1995 on any period of African history prior to 1960. "Scholarly" books are easily recognized by their inclusion of reference notes and a bibliography.

2. Read the book and identify the author's subject area (ex.: political history of precolonial Zambia, role of religion in African resistance in the Belgian Congo, etc.), sources (type, range, usefulness), historical question, and argument. To complete this step, it may be necessary to consult other works.

3. Write the name of your book's author, title, and facts of publication (city: publisher, date). Then skip a line and write a five-page double-spaced review of the book (roughly 1000 words) that includes clear descriptions of the items mentioned in the previous step.

Example: Douglas Porch, The Conquest of the Sahara (New York: Fromm International Publishing Corporation, 1986).

4. Print out your review with one-inch margins and a 12-point font (Arial, Times Roman or Courier are preferred). Staple the pages together in the upper left corner, write "HIS 511," your name, and the date at the top of the first page, and number pages 2-5. Do not use a title page or place your paper in a binder or cover.

5. Turn in your book review at (or before) the beginning of class on the day that it is due. Assignments submitted after class has begun will be considered late.

Your grade will be determined by the completeness and clarity of your presentation of the book's content (25%), the clarity and accuracy of your presentation of the author's argument (25%), your analysis of the range and quality of the author's sources (25%), and your accuracy in spelling, grammar and punctuation (25%). Papers turned in less than 24 hours late will receive a 25% penalty; papers turned in more than 24 hours late will receive a zero.


The map test is designed to guarantee that you possess the geographical knowledge needed to support all other class activities. For example, if you know where the Niger River is located, you can more easily understand its role in the patterns of farmer-pastoralist relations. To make this task manageable, I provide a list of the places and features from which questions will be drawn.

The map test will require you to locate items on a map and/or describe their location in writing. For example, you might have to draw the Nile River on a map, showing the correct locations for the source, mouth and general course of the river. Alternately, if you are asked to describe its location, you might write "The Nile is located in northeastern Africa with sources in the Ethiopian and Ugandan highlands. It flows north through the Sudan to Egypt and enters the eastern Mediterranean Sea."

Your grade will be determined by the accuracy of your answers and spelling (based on this list of places). I will give partial credit for correct answers with small spelling errors, but I will not spend a great deal of effort trying to decipher major spelling errors. It is your responsibility to spell African place names correctly.


The last assignment requires you to annotate one of the following series of web documents from the on-line archive accessible at http://courses.wcupa.edu/jones/his311/archives/arcindex.htm. The pupose of this assignment is to give you a chance to synthesize everything we have learned this semester, practice your skill at analyzing and explaining historical records, and experience something akin to what a researcher encounters when doing archival research.

  1. Anti-French resistance during WWI -- Email Dan
  2. Impact of World War II on the economy of the interior -- Email Terry
  3. The onset of the economic depression of the 1930s -- Email Kaila
  4. The 1947- 1948 railroad strike -- Email Erika
  5. Economic conditions at the junction between the Niger River and the Sahara Desert, 1924-1945 -- Email Shelley
  6. Forced labor recruitment in the Soudan, 1936 -- Email Jenna
  7. Railroad operations in 1912 -- Email Erin
  8. Correspondence from a small military post along the railroad, spring 1888 -- Email Karen
  9. Acts of sabotage against the railroad -- Email Esther

Not claimed in fall 2010

  1. Economic conditions at a Niger River trading town (Djenné) 1905-1917
  2. Conditions in a desert-side administrative center (Gao) in 1943
  3. Conditions in the colony of French Soudan in 1941 (for anyone who likes statistics)
  4. Supplying the interior, 1942-1944
  5. Reorganization of African railroad labor in 1950
  6. Economic conditions at the junction between the railroad and the Niger River, 1924-1942

HOW TO GET STARTED: Select a topic from the above list that has not yet been claimed, and inform your professor and classmates at the beginning of the next class.

Read the web document, note any terms or concepts with which you are unfamiliar, and define them. Identify any people mentioned by name in the web document. [NOTE: In most cases, a "web document" contains notes on a series of actual paper documents in the archives. You should use all of the notes in the web document to prepare your paper.]

Refer to our textbooks for material on the same period as your document and determine what light that they shed on the notes in the web document. If questions remain unanswered, seek additional information from the WCU library collection, the JSTOR on-line periodicals service (which can be accessed from on-campus computers through the Francis Harvey Green web site) and other Internet sources. If you are still having problems after that, describe your problem to Dr. Jones in person or via email at jjones@wcupa.edu.

WHAT TO WRITE: Begin by describing the document or series of documents that you have selected. Explain when it/they were written, what geographical area they cover, the identity of the authors, and the purpose they were intended to serve.

Comment on their accuracy in light of what you have learned from your other reading. In particular, seek errors and explain why you think they are errors, using reference notes to document your argument. If you wish to defend the accuracy of author(s)' work, do that, but once again, use reference notes to document your argument.

Finally, write a conclusion that places your document in the larger context of colonial African history. Explain why colonial authorities devoted resources to documenting the subject of your web document, and took any actions that are described in the Web document.

Make sure that you provide reference notes (end notes are preferable) for everything you cite in your paper. The formatting of your paper and reference notes should follow the Chicago Manual of Style (Turabian).

SUMMARY: Your completed research paper should include the following sections:

  1. Introduction (description of document)
  2. Definitions
  3. Identifications
  4. Analysis of the document's accuracy
  5. Conclusion (describing the larger context surrounding the web document)

Your grade will be determined by the completeness and clarity of your written paper (50%); accuracy in spelling, grammar and punctuation on your written paper (25%); and the range and quality of your sources (25%). Papers turned in less than 24 hours late will result in a 25% penalty for the entire assignment. Papers turned in more than 24 hours late will result in a zero for the entire assignment.


Each person will have five minutes to describe his/her document and its context, and additional time to respond to questions from the rest of the class.

Your grade will be determined by the clarity of your presentation (50%) and the extent to which your answers show an ability to connect the document you chose with the larger issues of colonial African history (50%). [NOTE: If there are no questions from students, the professor will provide at least one.]

Return to HIS 511 syllabus