Congo: A History of Violence - HI836

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
7 30 (15) DR G Macola







This module examines the main causes and consequences of armed conflict and violence in the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), from the 1860s to the present. It will begin with a discussion of the predatory political formations thrown up by the opening of the Central African interior to global commerce in the second half of the nineteenth century. The incorporation of their leaders, armed personnel and extractive forms of governance into King Leopold's personal colony, the Congo Free State, will next be addressed. After examining the key features of Belgian rule in the Congo following the reprise of 1908, the module will explore the precipitous modalities of Congolese decolonization and the process of violent disintegration that ensued. A discussion of secessionist and revolutionary challenges to the post-independence dispensation will help to account for the rise of Mobutu’s authoritarian 'kleptocracy’ and its longevity in an international context dominated by the Cold War. The module will end by investigating the circumstances that led to Mobutu’s fall, as well as the armed balkanization experienced by the Congo in its aftermath.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Learning and teaching will be carried out through two-hour seminar sessions
Contact hours: 22
Private Study hours: 278
Total hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods
Presentation (20%)
Essay, 3, 000 words (40%)
Essay, 3,000 words (40%)

Indicative reading

D.M. Gordon, 'Precursors to Red Rubber: Violence in the Congo Free State, 1885-
1895', Past & Present, 236, 1 (2017), 133-168
E.F. Kisangani, Civil Wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1960-2010 (Boulder, CO, 2012)
O. Likaka, Rural Society and Cotton in Colonial Zaire (Madison, WI, 1997)
G. Macola, The Gun in Central Africa: A History of Technology and Politics (Athens, OH, 2016)
G. Prunier, From Genocide to Continental War: The ‘Congolese’ Conflict and the Crisis of
Contemporary Africa (London, 2009)
C. Young and T. Turner, The Rise & Decline of the Zairian State (Madison, WI, 1985)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate a systematic understanding of Congolese history over the past 150 years.
2. Demonstrate a conceptual understanding of different historiographical approaches to the role played by armed conflict and violence in the Congo, from the late pre-colonial era to the present, enabling the student to critically evaluate current research and advanced scholarship in the discipline.
3. Show familiarity with the drivers and protagonists of violence, including state, non-state and international actors.
4. Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of the workings of colonial and post-colonial polities and the problems faced by 'resource-cursed' states
5. Critically evaluate enduring international perceptions of the Congo’s ‘exceptionalism’.

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