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The Ghosts of Gandhi: India & Africa since the Late Nineteenth Century - HIS00066H

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Gerard McCann
  • Credit value: 40 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

India and Africa have been intimately linked for centuries. But in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries Indo-African relationships altered dramatically and irrevocably as new forms of Indian Ocean migration, European imperialism, freedom from colonial rule and post-colonial opportunity thrust Indians and Africans into ever more entwined and complex relationships. Focusing on India, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda ,this module gives students an opportunity to engage in advanced interdisciplinary research; combining transnational history with literary studies and international relations. The course begins in the late nineteenth century as new arenas of oceanic economic exchange and imperial connectivity brought hundreds of thousands more Indians to African shores. Such linkage would have profound consequences for Indian and African anti-colonial nationalism from the 1920s-60s, as well as the nature of post-colonial African societies over the century. Students will also delve into India’s resurgent economic conviviality with Africa in the last decade, and how this reflects, and departs from, the narratives of historical connections across the twentieth century.

The module is split into two chronological clusters: autumn term is devoted to the study of themes relating to the colonial period and the dynamics of decolonisation. Spring term’s endeavours assess the period from the 1960s to today, in dialogue with the history of the early twentieth century. Crucially, students must promiscuously grapple with a range of primary source material including: writings of Gandhi and numerous Indian and African anti-colonial leaders; unpublished personal papers; memoirs; Afro-Asian media; and, importantly, African-Asian fiction and conceptual art.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23 to Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to in depth study of a specific historical topic using primary and secondary material;
  • To enable students to explore the topic through discussion and writing; and
  • To enable students to evaluate and analyse primary sources.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Grasp key themes, issues and debates relevant to the topic being studied;
  • Have acquired knowledge and understanding about that topic;
  • Be able to comment on and analyse original sources;
  • Be able to relate the primary and secondary material to one another; and
  • Have acquired skills and confidence in close reading and discussion of texts and debates.

Module content

Teaching Programme:

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1 of the autumn term. Students prepare for and participate in fifteen three-hour seminars. These take place in weeks 2-5 and 7-9 of the autumn term and weeks 2-5 and 7-10 of the spring term. Both the autumn and spring terms include a reading week for final year students and so there will be no teaching in week 6. There will also be a two hour revision session in the summer term. One-to-one meetings will also be held to discuss the assessed essay.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

Autumn Term

  1. The Indian Ocean and the consolidation of European Empire

  2. Dhows, dukas and coolies: Indian settlement histories in Africa to 1920

  3. The subaltern mechanics of Empire: Indians and the colonial economies of Africa

  4. Settled strangers: the socio-cultural worlds of Africa’s South Asians to 1950

  5. M.K. Gandhi in South Africa & A.M. Jeevanjee in Kenya – conceptualising imperial citizenship, 1893-1923

  6. The diasporic Indian Ocean and the struggle for rights, 1920s-60s

  7. The diasporic Indian Ocean and the struggle for freedoms, 1920s-60s

Spring Term

  1. Indian independence, Nehruvian internationalism and free African futures, 1947-64

  2. Africanisation I: the wananchi and the wahindi in East Africa

  3. Africanisation II: case studies – Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda

  4. Indian identity in apartheid South Africa

  5. Indians in Africa since democratization in the 1990s – a new politics of autochthony?

  6. The rise and fall of third worldism: India-Africa relations, 1964-1991

  7. Historical narrative, ‘India Inc.’ and resurgent Indo-African relations since 1991

  8. Children of Bharat Mata? India’s relationships with diaspora in Africa from Gandhi to Modi


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 50
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - The Ghosts of Gandhi
8 hours 50

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will be given the opportunity to do two practice gobbets and then are required to write a 2,000-word procedural essay relating to the themes and issues of the module in either the autumn or spring term.

For summative assessment, students complete a 4,000-word essay which utilises an analysis of primary source materials to explore a theme or topic relating to the module, due in week 5 of the summer term.

They then take a 24-hour online examination for summative assessment in the summer term assessment period comprising: one essay question relating to themes and issues, but showing an awareness of the pertinent sources that underpin these AND one ‘gobbet’ question (where students attempt two gobbets from a slate of eight).

The essay and exam are weighted equally at 50% each.


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 50
Online Exam - 24 hrs (Centrally scheduled)
Open Exam - The Ghosts of Gandhi
8 hours 50

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their discussion groups and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their procedural work with their tutor (or module convenor) during student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 20 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For term time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

Bose, Sugata. A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Gregory, Robert. South Asians in East Africa: An Economic and Social History, 1890-1980. Boulder: Colorado University Press, 1993.

Mawdsley, Emma and Gerard McCann, eds. India in Africa: changing geographies of power. Oxford: Pambazuka Press, 2011.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.