Spring 2020

Diamonds (Guns and Money): An African History of a Precious Commodity

Listed in: Black Studies, as BLST-326  |  History, as HIST-326


Sean Redding (Section 01)


Diamonds (Guns and Money): An African History of a Precious Commodity

(Offered as HIST 326 [AF/TE] and BLST 326) Diamonds have a long history in global trade, and for centuries they were scarce enough to be among the most precious commodities. But in 1867 the discovery of diamonds in a remote part of the Cape Colony in southern Africa turned them into a commodity that helped to finance the construction of the British empire on the continent through conquest and African labor. The diamond industry that emerged also developed a mass retail market in the gem as a symbol of marital love and respectability, a marketing feat that masked the harsh realities of their production. More recent diamond discoveries in Africa and elsewhere have been implicated in enough revolts, secessionist movements, and arms deals to earn the label “conflict diamonds” for the gems coming out of those regions. We will trace the history of diamonds on the continent from their discoveries through the development of mining and labor systems, the creation of the global consumer market, and the use of diamonds as a source of revenue for aspiring empire-builders and revolutionaries. Two class meetings per week. Limited to 25 students.

If Overenrolled: Preference given to History and Black Studies majors.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Issues of Social Justice, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2020