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David Schoenbrun

Professor of History

Ph.D., UCLA, 1990
Curriculum Vitae


Geographic Field(s):  African History

Thematic Field(s):  History of Science, Technology, and Medicine; Environmental History; Political and Policy History; Religious History; Gender and Sexuality History

Principal Research Interest(s):  Africa before 1900

 *Professor Schoenbrun is no longer accepting graduate students*


David Schoenbrun (Ph.D., UCLA, 1990) has been learning, teaching, and writing about Africa since 1978. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and the Co-Executive Producer of two films. He works with historical linguistics, archaeology, paleoecology and biogeography, oral traditions, comparative ethnography, and more conventional documentary sources to study East Africa’s earlier history.

Affiliated Programs

Program of African Studies, Core affiliated faculty.


Articles and Review Essays

  • [With Steven A. Brandt and Shomarka Keita] "Afro-Asiatic" for M. Robbeets (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Archaeolinguistics (Oxford: Oxford University Press), accepted.

  • [With Akin Ogundiran] "Orality, Language and African Histories of Technology" for D. Schäfer, et al. (eds.) The New Cambridge History of Technology, Vol.1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), forthcoming.

Minor Publications

  • Jan Vansina (1929-2017): A Founder Figure in the Study of Africa’s Past, Early and Recent,” Azania 52, 2 (2017), 267-70.
  • “Review of Christopher Ehret, History and the Testimony of Language,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 43, 3 (2012), 459-61.
  • “The Art of Living Between the Great Lakes Before the States: History of the Interlacustrine Region, (1000 BCE to 1500 CE),” in John Middleton and Joseph Miller, General Editors, New Encyclopedia of Africa (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2008), 31-35.
  • “Forging a Research Agenda at the Intersections of Africanist and Diasporic Scholarship,” PAS News and Events 12, 2 (Winter, 2002), 2.
  • “Review of Jean-Pierre Chrétien, L’Afrique des Grands Lacs: Deux mille ans d’Histoire (Paris: Aubier, 2000),” International Journal of African Historical Studies 33, 3 (2000), 696-701.
  • “Comment on Scott MacEachern, ‘Genes, People, and History’,” Current Anthropology 41, 3 (2000), 378-79.
  • “Review of Colleen Kriger, Pride of Men: Ironworking in 19th Century West Central Africa (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1998),” International Journal of African Historical Studies 32, 2/3 (1999), 435-39.
  • “Comment on David N. Beach, ‘Cognitive Archaeology and Imaginary History at Great Zimbabwe’,” Current Anthropology 39, 1 (1998), 65-66.
  • “Interlacustrine Bantu Region, History.” In John Middleton (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Africa South of the Sahara, Volume 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1997), 383-6.
  • “Review of Joseph K. Adjaye (ed.) Time in the Black Experience (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press),” International Journal of African Historical Studies 29, 1 (1996), 168-73.
  • “Review of David Newbury. Kings and Clans: Ijwi Island and the Lake Kivu Rift, 1780-1840. (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991).” International Journal of African Historical Studies 26, 3 (1993), 637-40.
  • “Using the White Fathers Archive: An Update.” History in Africa 20 (1993), 421-22.
  • “Introduction to Africa: From Earliest Times to 1600.” In Daniel Smith (ed.) African History: Selected Course Outlines and Reading Lists from American Colleges and Universities (New York: Markus Weiner, 1993), 76-87.
  • “Review of J. Desmond Clark and Steven A. Brandt (eds.) From Hunters to Farmers: The Causes and Consequences of Food Production in Africa (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984).” UCLA Historical Journal 7 (1986), 110-115.

Teaching Interests

  • Schoenbrun has worked with graduate students in all regions and periods of African history, but most have focused on Africa before 1900. They include Edda Fields-Black (Carnegie Mellon U.), Neil Kodesh (U of Wisconsin Madison), Rhiannon Stephens (Columbia U.), Kate de Luna (Georgetown U.), Pamela Khanakwa (Makerere U.).
  • Schoenbrun teaches undergraduate surveys of Africa to 1700, East Africa to 1900, and topical Seminars in Violence and African History, African Anthropocene.
  • Schoenbrun’s teaching puts the primary sources for writing Africa’s past into students’ hands, so they can see for themselves how we do that work. He also helps students understand the forces that have shaped their knowledge of Africa’s past.