My research focuses on the history and economic development of postcolonial Africa. I am interested in how economic conditions and social structures in various parts of Africa have changed over the past 60 years, in the face of a limited structural transformation, yet a rapid pace of population growth, urbanisation, educational attainment growth and new climate stresses. I previously held the David Richards JRF in economic history at Wadham College, and postdoctoral posts at LSE and the Institute for Historical Studies.
My past research has studied public sector employment policies in postcolonial Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Using statistics on public expenditure, employment and earnings, I examined how public employment objectives changed over time as fiscal fortunes in eastern Africa shifted, and evaluated the role of the state in creating a nascent middle class after independence. Papers based on this research were published in the Economic History Review, Journal of International Development and African Affairs.
Other projects have examined economic and social inequalities and elite persistence over time. I have published papers on ethnic inequalities in education and employment provision in the Journal of Modern African Studies and the International Journal of Educational Development. My ongoing research on wealth and elites includes a paper about Sierra Leone, which uses name analysis to examine how descendants of colonial-era elites (settlers and chiefs) fared into the postcolonial era, revealing how social reproduction in the Sierra Leonean context is strongly differentiated across different communities. In work on wealth inequality in Kenya and South Africa, I am using sources on estates under probate and administration to study the changing characteristics of wealth-holders over time.
I am also developing a new research project on Africa’s economic depression of the 1980s and 1990s. It will explore the causes and consequences of this major economic reversal and debt crisis, and link it to theories about the continent’s long-run growth path.
I am a visiting fellow at the International Inequalities Institute at LSE, where I can contribute to the centre’s work stream on wealth inequality, and an editor of the blog, Frontiers in African Economic History.
I currently teach:
Quantification in History
MSc/MPhil in Economic and Social History: Topics in African Economic History