"Musikbande", Gold Coast ca. 1900. Photo from the papers and collections of missionary Jakob Keller

At the chair of African history at the University of Basel we pursue a social and cultural history approach in our research. Moreover, we place African history within a transnational context that focuses on Europe and the African diaspora. Our main regional focus is southern Africa, but we also deal with West and East Africa from the 18th to the 21st centuries.

Our research projects examine a broad scope of topics. Among them are the end of the transatlantic slave trade, the history of labor in South Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a transnational history of knowledge in Africa, the Americas, and Europe, Christian missions, environmental history, agriculture and rural development, the history of race, urban history, and the history of capitalism.  

These topics reflect the research axes of the Centre of Competence on Africa. At the chair of African history we focus particularly on the research fields “Knowledge Production and Transfer” and “Governance and Civil Society”. We understand knowledge to be a form of “cooked” or “processed” information that is produced – and negotiated – by individuals and social groups. Knowledge is rooted in specific institutions and interest groups but is eminently historical as it is constantly challenged and changed. In the research projects on “Governance and Civil Society” we ask how governing works as a social practice, how power is symbolically represented and how it is challenged and questioned over time.

Young scholars and funding

PhD students in African History have the opportunity to study at the Basel Graduate School of History. Moreover, we are a member of the Centre of Competence on Africa at the University of Basel. Our research projects are supported by different third-party funding agencies (in particular the Swiss National Science Foundation, the Swiss South Africa Joint Research Programm, the Swiss Network for International Studies, and the Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschaft). MA and PhD candidates from Africa can apply for scholarships offered by the Kanton Basel-Stadt or the Swiss government scholarships for foreign students (ESKAS). We have a broad network of academic cooperation.