About the History Department

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Note that some material in this page may be out of date.

Sir Seretse Khama on the importance of studying the past:

A nation without a past is a lost nation, and a people without a past is a people without a soul.

Sir Seretse Khama, 1921 - 1980, first President of the Republic of Botswana. (See brief biography)

Thabo Mbeki on the importance of studying the past:

...we will seek to educate both the young and ourselves about everything all our forebears did to uphold the torch of freedom...

We will also work to rediscover and claim the African heritage, for the benefit especially of our young generation.

From South Africa to Ethiopia lie strewn ancient fossils which, in their stillness, speak still of the African origins of all humanity.

Recorded history and the material things that time left behind also speak of Africa's historic contribution to the universe of philosophy, the natural sciences, human settlement and organisation, and the creative arts.

Thabo Mbeki, former President of the Republic of South Africa, first inaugural speech, 16 June 1999. (The Star, Johannesburg, 17 June 1999 p. 4.)


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Introducing the History Department


The Department of History was one of the first university departments to begin teaching in Gaborone in 1971. It is the second largest department, in staff and student numbers, in the Faculty of Humanities. The Archaeology Unit within the Department of History conducts one of the few teaching and research programmes in Archaeology and Museum Studies in Africa.

Heads of Department:

  1. Thomas Tlou
  2. Michael Crowder
  3. Leonard Ngcongco
  4. Part Mgadla
  5. Gilbert Sekgoma
  6. Part Mgadla
  7. Ackson Kanduza
  8. Bruce Bennett
  9. Maitseo Bolaane
  10. Boga Manatsha (current)

The first Head of Department was Prof. Thomas Tlou, author of A History of Botswana (Macmillan, 1984) and Seretse Khama, 1921-1980 (Macmillan, 1995), who went on to become Vice-Chancellor of the University of Botswana. The second Head was Prof. Michael Crowder, an eminent historian of Africa and of West Africa in particular, and former editor of the magazine History Today. The third Head was the late Prof. Leonard Ngcongco, former director of the National Institute for Research and contributor to the UNESCO History of Africa project. He retired at the end of 1997 and was succeeded by Dr. P. T. Mgadla, Prof. G. Sekgoma, Prof. P. T. Mgadla, and Prof. A. Kanduza, Dr B.S. Bennett, Prof. M.M.M. Bolaane, and Dr B. Manatsha. (Some other staff members have served as Acting Head for prolonged periods, notably Prof. Neil Parsons and Prof. Morongwa Mosothwane.)

Previous members of the department include the late David Kiyaga-Mulindwa, now President of the Pan-African Association for Prehistory and Related Studies; Fred Morton, editor of The Birth of Botswana (Longman, 1987); Kevin Shillington, author of History of Africa (Macmillan, 1989) and biographer of Museveni of Uganda; Paul Lane, now Director of the British Institute for Prehistory and Archaeology at Nairobi, and Chipasha Luchembe, later attached to the University of California at Los Angeles, who established Latin American History in our curriculum.

The Department is noted for its student research essays in History and Archaeology, of which about two hundred have been written since 1976, and some of which have been published. The Archaeology Unit has ongoing Stone Age, Iron Age, and historic research projects in Kweneng, Central District, and Ngamiland.

The Department provides a course for the Diploma in Archives and Record Management, in the Department of Library and Information Studies. The Archaeology Unit also works closely with, and services courses in, the Department of Environmental Science.

The Department is one of the five largest History departments south of the Zambezi-the others being at the Universities of Cape Town, Natal, Pretoria, South Africa (Unisa), and Zimbabwe. But among them we have the longest record of Africanized curriculum and staffing. We are therefore uniquely situated for cooperation with universities in neighbouring Commonwealth countries.

Such cooperation has begun with the University of North West at Mafikeng. We have also been involved in the development of new secondary school curricula and text materials-in the past in Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, and today in other countries too.

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Career Prospects

(A newer, more formal statement connecting employment prospects to the nature of our courses appears below. The following is an older more general statement.)

Most students who take History at university degree level do not become professional historians. Jobs as lecturers, researchers, and as archivists, are hard to come by. Most students of History from the University of Botswana in the past have become teachers of history in schools, and the Department is committed to the provision of high quality content studies for teaching careers.

The skills of research, analysis, writing and information management practised by historians are useful training for jobs of all kinds. History graduates make good general administrators, diplomats and business people, journalists and publishers. Careers as diverse as tourism, television, and criminal investigation are open to people with historical skills.

Archaeological skills are becoming increasingly useful in teaching the new environmental and social studies in schools, as well as in other careers open to historians. There also opportunities for the employment of archaeologists in environmental impact assessment, in institutions such as museums, and in businesses such as tourism and the art and antique trades.

Students should bear in mind that career prospects will be region-wide when the Southern African Development Community grows into a common market.

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Our aims & objectives

The department's mission is:

The objectives of UB History and UB Archaeology programmes are:

Employment prospects

Historians and archaeologists by training may seek careers in any field that puts a premium on:

Our undergraduate programmes in History and Archaeology therefore stress:

"One event is always the son of another," said a Mochuana prince to me on one of these occasions, "and we must never forget the genealogy."

Eugene Casalis, The Basutos, (Morija: Morija Museum and Archives, 1997, facsimile of 1861 edition), p. 235

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This site is maintained by:

Dr B. S. Bennett

bennett@mopipi... [Click here for full email address]

About this site:

The History Department web-site was launched in May 1999. A complete list of pages can be found in the Site Index. Comments, suggestions and other input will be gratefully received.

See also notes on "About the History Department Web-site".

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Web-site editor:
Dr Bruce Bennett, email bennett@mopipi... [Click here for full email address]
Other staff:
Staff list with email addresses

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Copyright © 1999 University of Botswana History Department
Last updated 1 May 2021.