Modern Africa

Africa is both a continent and a collection of individual countries. Your African research might focus on the history of a particular country. Or you might choose to compare an important issue faced by several countries: the treatment of minorities, tribal conflict, the role of Islam, genocide. Try to narrow your research to a particular area. You might start by finding an entry in a good print encyclopedia or by reading a short, general book on your topic. This will give you an overview of the subject and help you to refine your search. 

Check out the starting your research project before you begin! Some possible subject areas for the history of modern Africa include:
colonialism in Nigeria
humanitarian contributions and the politics of international aid
Mobutu's single party system in Zaire
Haile Sellasie/Hailemariam and Ethiopia
the history of national parks and wildlife preservation in Africa

We can't fit every resource about modern Africa on to this list! A topic guide is just the beginning of building your bibliography.

Reference materials

This is the place to start any research project. Reference materials offer short, authoritative information on every topic. Most contain bibliographies of important works on your topic. Reference books must be used in the library. A good first stop would be any of the standard print encyclopedias in the Beaver collection: Encyclopedia Americana, World Book or Britannica.


Cutter, Charles, H. (2004). Africa. REF 960 C98 2004
Gale Group. (2001). History behind the headlines : the origins of conflicts worldwide. REF 909 H62 2001
Gall, Timothy, ed. (2004). Worldmark encyclopedia of the nations: Africa. REF 910.3 W89 v. 2
Herb, G. and Kaplan, D. ( 2008). Nations and nationalism: a global historical overview. REF 320.54 NAT 4 volume set with olive-green spines
Middleton, John, ed. (2001). Africa : an encyclopedia for students. REF 960.03 Af8 2001 4 volume set.


Britannica Online
Gale Virtual Reference Library
General Reference Center Gold
Routledge Reference Resources


Books about modern African history will be found starting at 960. Biographies can be found at 921, listed alphabetically by the subject's last name (for example, a biography of Nelson Mandela would carry the call number: 921 Mandela).
Hochschild, Adam. (1998). King Leopold's ghost : a story of greed, terror, and heroism in Colonial Africa. 967.5 H65 1999 366 pages.
Hunter, Susan. (2003). Black death: AIDS in Africa. 362.1 H91 2003 247 pages.
Marcovitz, Hal. (2007). Islam in Africa. 297.096 M38 2007 112 pages.
Mitchell, Peter, ed. (2006). Nations and personalities. 960 N21 2006 112 pages.
Noonan, Sheila. (2005). South Africa. 968 N73 2005 87 pages.


For these Gale Group Resources, try using the following subject terms: Colonial Africa, 1870-1960, African history or for the history of a particular country: Nigerian History, Rwandan History, South African History, just to give a few examples. Ask one of the librarians to help you develop a list of search terms.
Academic OneFile
Biography in Context For information on famous people associated with modern Africa. Search by the person's last name.
Expanded Academic ASAP
General OneFile
Student Edition
World History In Context
History Study Center
Issues and Controversies
SIRS Researcher Use the Subject Heading Search to create a term to reflect your research goals.

Internet sites

Africa South of the Sahara Maintained by Stanford University. You can browse by country or topic, search the entire site or check out the latest African news. Under Topics, select History and then K-12 for more accessible sites.
African timeline A five part timeline (From the BCE era to today) with links to primary sources and short articles on events.
CIA World Factbook Authoritative information, statistics, maps for every country in the world.
Internet African History Sourcebook read about ancient and modern Africa, the effects of European imperialism, the fight for independence and about individual countries. Link to country studies, international organizations, primary sources.
Library of Congress country studies
Front Line World A production of PBS. Search for the country and/or topic that you are researching to find images, video, and articles.

BPL: Electronic Resources

History Study Center. Great introduction to modern African history plus many primary sources.
PAIS International. For scholarly articles on political issues in modern Africa: internal politics, the environment, modernization, etc.
Sociological Abstracts. For scholarly articles related to life in modern Africa: gender issues, families, education, religion, poverty, etc.

Updated, 4/11