Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module HIST20P1: Wildlife Conservation in African History

Department: History

HIST20P1: Wildlife Conservation in African History

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2023/24 Module Cap 48 Location Durham


  • • A pass mark in at least ONE level 1 module in History


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To explore key themes in the history of human interactions with nature in African history, and particularly how this history has been represented and changed through the rise of wildlife conservation.
  • To examine the ideological, social and material underpinnings of conservationism, and the manifold ways in which wildlife conservation efforts have shaped societies, politics, and political ecology in Africa.
  • To enable students to engage critically with key problems and debates in the Environmental History of Africa more broadly, and in the scholarship on wildlife conservation in particular.
  • To contribute towards the Department's generic aims for study at Level 2.


  • In the context of climate change, mass extinction and a growing awareness of the damage wrought by humans on ecosystems around the globe, nature conservation initiatives are attracting unprecedented interest and support. In narratives and images about nature conservation, as indeed in global imaginaries of the continent itself, Africa’s wildlife and wilderness areas feature prominently. Yet while the challenges and successes of wildlife conservation in Africa are widely discussed and featured, they are rarely viewed in light of their deep and contested histories. This module introduces the most pressing themes in the scholarship and practice of wildlife conservation and discusses their historical origins, development and meanings. It will problematise the ideologies, networks and practices of conservation that have deeply shaped African history over the past century, from the conceptual underpinnings of key concepts such as “pristine wilderness”, “biodiversity” and even “conservation” itself to local and transcontinental networks of trade and mobility over the longue durée; from the connections between hunting, empire and race to the establishment of protected nature areas and the institutionalisation of conservation; from global representations of African wildlife to the burgeoning tourism industry and its ambivalent effects on the ground; and from connections between conservation and conflict on the one hand to the state-building purposes of conservation practice on the other.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, students will be able to:
  • explain crucial developments and changes in the evolution of wildlife conservation in Africa
  • critically engage with central problems in the scholarship on wildlife conservation in Africa
  • participate in academic enquiry into the history, politics and culture of wildlife conservation in Africa
Subject-specific Skills:
  • reading and using texts and other source materials critically and analytically, addressing questions of content, perspective and purpose at an advanced level;
  • handling and critically analysing varying interpretations of a given body of historical evidence;
  • managing a body of evidence or information, particularly gathering, sifting, synthesizing, organising, marshalling and presenting information consistent with the methods and standards of historical study and research;
  • assembling evidence to address issues, constructing an argument and supporting it with evidence to permit and facilitate the evaluation of hypotheses;
  • intellectual independence and research, including the development of bibliographical skills, the ability to research, use, evaluate and organise historical materials, and to present independent research in written form;
  • In addition students will acquire the ability to evaluate the scholarly debates around conservation within African history.
Key Skills:
  • self-discipline, self-direction, initiative, the capacity for extended independent work on complex subjects, the development of pathways to originality, and intellectual curiosity;
  • discrimination and judgement;
  • ability to gather, organise and deploy evidence, data and information, and familiarity with appropriate means of identifying, finding, retrieving, sorting and exchanging information;
  • analytical ability, and the capacity to consider and solve complex problems;
  • structure, coherence, clarity and fluency of written expression;
  • intellectual integrity, maturity and an appreciation of the validity of the reasoned views of others;
  • imaginative insight.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Student learning is facilitated by a combination of the following teaching methods:
  • Lectures to set the foundations for further study and to provide the basis for the acquisition of subject specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework which defines individual module content, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • Seminars to allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and to identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build the students ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment:
  • Summative essays remain a central component of assessment in history, due to the integrative high-order skills they develop. Essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Term 1 1 hour 16
Seminars 7 Term 1 1 hour 7
Preparation and Reading 177
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 75%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 3000 words, not including footnotes and bibliography 100%
Component: Assignment Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment or assignments 1000 words total, not including footnotes and bibliography where relevant %

Formative Assessment:

Formative work done in preparation for and during seminars, including oral and written work as appropriate to the module.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University