African history at the University of Chicago focuses on the sub-Saharan continent from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, with particular strengths in the social, cultural, and political history of West and Francophone Africa. Faculty research includes, but is not limited to, precolonial statecraft, gender, technology, and colonialism. Students train broadly in precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial African history and in a variety of methodological tools and source materials. Graduate students pursuing a PhD in African history are expected to acquire an African language and undertake field work in Africa. Applicants are also strongly urged to have knowledge of at least one European language.

A distinguishing feature of the graduate program in African history is the opportunity for interdisciplinary, comparative training. Students are encouraged to enrich their training by pursuing coursework in other fields, such as South Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean, as well as by participating in the African Studies Workshop, an interdisciplinary group of scholars and graduate students who meet regularly to engage with cutting-edge scholarship.