African Civilizations Take-Home Midterm Exam

AAFS 286

Fall 2021

African Civilizations: Take-Home Midterm Exam

For this class, your midterm exam will be a take-home writing assignment. You will respond to one essay from each category, for a total of two essays. For each essay, you should use examples of specific kingdoms, people, events, and processes whenever possible. Each essay should be roughly 2.5-to-3 pages.

The exam will be due via Blackboard on Thursday, October 28, by 11:59 PM. However, if neeed, you can have an extension, no questions asked, until Sunday, October 31, by 11:59 PM.

Essay 1: Comparing African civilizations (choose one of the following)

What major commonalities and differences do we see in the early African states/kingdoms we have studied so far this semester? What patterns do we see in early African state-making?

Compare at least two regions that we have studied in class so far. Outside of politics (covered in question #1), what similarities and differences do we see between these societies? How did people live, worship, and work in different parts of the African continent?

Essay 2: Regional connections (choose one of the following)

What connections can we draw between different regions within the African continent? How were they connected through trade, language, religion, and more? How do these examples help us think of Africa in less static, geographically restricted ways than are traditionally presented?

In this course so far, we have discussed Africa’s regional relationships through trade, religion, etc. How did Africans both shape the wider world and how were they shaped by their regional connections?

OverviewDrawing on the course readings and lectures, you will make an argument that answers the questions posed in the questions above. With only 2.5 or so pages, you will not be able to give every example possible, or to give too many larger arguments. It is best to choose a few points that you can then give specific examples for, and analyze those examples. In discussing these questions, you will exclusively draw on and cite the course materials. You must use both the readings and the lectures to do so.

For each question, you should use concrete examples and information in support of your point. Any specific examples or statistics you can give will only help justify your argument. However, you must explain and analyze that data, as it may not be self-evident. Case studies of particular locations that we discussed in class will be helpful in making your points clearer.

List of Readings and Lectures by Region


Lectures 5 and 6 (September 7/9)

Readings: J. Yoyotte, “Pharonic Egypt,” and A. H. Zayed, “Egypt’s relations”

Ghana, Mali, and Songhay

Lectures 7, 8, and 9 (September 14/16/21)

Readings: Sunjata and Leo Africanus, “The Western Sudan”


Lectures, 10, 11, and 12 (September 23/28/30)

Reading: The Life of Walatta-Petros

Kongo AND Great Zimbabwe

Lecture 13 (October 5)

East Africa/Swahili City-States

Lecture 14/15 (October 7/14)

Readings: Tuan Ch’eng Shih, “China’s Discovery in Africa, 863,” Thomas Spear, “Early Swahili History Reconsidered,” Ibn Battuta, “The East African Coast, 1331,” and Duarte Barbosa, “The East Coast of Africa.”

ExpectationsEach essay will be, at minimum, 2.5 pages long, double-spaced, with size 12 font and no extra spaces before the paper or between paragraphs. Please start a new essay on a new page. The only thing at the top of your exam will be your name and “African Civilizations Mid-Term Exam,” followed by the question #. You will submit the exam as a Microsoft Word document.

Each essay should consist of:

A clear, brief introduction that states your argument, and gives an overview of the issues you will be discussing. Roughly 1/4 to 1/2 page.

At least two body paragraphs that delve into the different points that you make in your introduction. Each paragraph should be a part of your larger argument, as stated in your thesis statement/introduction. For each paragraph, you should have a clear argument that lays out the key points for that section, stating the relevant sub-points you will be discussing. For most—if not all—of these sub-points, you will need specific information and examples—from both the lectures and the readings—to help back up your argument for its significance. That information should be clearly analyzed so that its relevance is apparent. Roughly 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 pages.

A conclusion that re-states these major arguments, and some concluding thoughts that tie these points together in explaining your larger conclusions. Roughly 1/4 to 1/2 page.


When citing the lectures, please simply put at the end of the sentence (Lecture). For the readings, the author’s last name, and a page number—when applicable—is sufficient (for example, Ibn Battuta, 21—or Sunjata, 109).

Grading Criteria

Each essay will be graded on the following criteria:

Does the paper meet the requirements for the assignment? A minimum of 2.5 pages per assignment, citing both the lectures and readings.

Are your arguments well-made/chosen? Do you have a clear thesis that explains what you will be discussing over the course of the essay?

Is the essay well organized? Is your argument broken up into a series of parts/case studies that connect together?

Do you use good evidence in support of your argument, and analyze that evidence?

Is the writing clear, well written, and free of spelling/grammar mistakes?