It’s impossible to study African history without understanding how much colonialism set it back

Added: 07-31-2018

This article highlights the obstacles that colonialism put in place to set back the study of African history. In it, Glen Ncube explains how African historiography, the study of African history, is experiencing a wave of decoloniality, which is a movement to remove colonialism as the center of the history narrative in Africa.

African pan-Africanism movement historiography independence dark continent colonial decoloniality narrative

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
article 10 minutes GLEN NCUBE 04-17-2005
Type Reading Time
article 10 minutes
Author Date
glen ncube 2018-07-31 00:00:00 UTC
Key Takeaways

  • Africa was mostly dismissed as a “dark continent” before the 20th century. 
  • African historiography, the study of African history, experienced an initial wave of popularity during the African independence movement and another one in the last 10 years. 
  • Decoloniality is a movement to restructure worldviews and education curriculums to remove colonialism from the center of the narrative.


This article succinctly summarizes the obstacles to uncovering and disseminating African history. Glen Ncube begins by outlining the importance of African history as a key part of global history. He also establishes an essential fact stating that, Africa was mostly dismissed as a “dark continent” before the 20th century. 

African history, and historiography (the study of history), gained popularity in the 1950-60s, alongside the rise of African independence. As important leaders of the movement faded and internal conflict arose, African historiography was overshadowed. 

Now, almost two decades into the 21st century, African historiography is experiencing a new rise. Decoloniality, the concept of removing colonialism as the key framework for understanding history, has risen in popularity. In places like South Africa, the lasting impact of colonial-era policies has led universities to explore alternative educational frameworks to explain history. 

Neocolonial obstacles to growth parallel with ones experienced during colonialism, make the study of colonialism valuable once more. In other areas, learning African history as a complementary field has risen in popularity to strengthen and expand workplace education. 

Rejecting colonial concepts, such as a Africa being homogeneous, are vital concepts in decoloniality. Professor Mamdani of Cape Town University has sought to combat colonialist frameworks from interfering with African history by creating an African history syllabus that disregards the Western paradigm, which views African history almost explicitly through the lens colonialism.