About our staff
Professor Emma Hunter
MA, MPhil, PhD, SFHEA
Professor of Global and African History
Research Director for History
Affiliated research centres
I am a historian of Africa in a global context with particular interests in intellectual history and the global history of political thought, print culture and the history of nationalism and decolonization. I grew up in Edinburgh then studied and taught in Cambridge before returning to Edinburgh and joining the School of History, Classics and Archaeology in January 2015.
From 2016-2018 I was Postgraduate Director for the School of History, Classics and Archaeology and from April to December 2019 I was Academic Lead (CAHSS) for a university-wide review of personal tutoring and student support. I co-founded the Global and Transnational History Research Group in 2015 and was founding co-director of the new Edinburgh Centre for Global History from January to July 2019.
I am principal investigator for a Leverhulme-funded project ‘Another World? East Africa and the Global 1960s’ with Daniel Branch and Gerard McCann which began in January 2019 and will run until December 2022. In 2018-19 I was the Quentin Skinner Fellow in Intellectual History at CRASSH at the University of Cambridge.
I have supervised a range of PhD topics in the field of African history. I welcome proposals for research projects in the field of African political, intellectual, cultural and social history.
View of Lake Victoria, Tanzania
I am a co-editor of the Journal of Eastern African Studies. I also serve on the editorial boards of Africa; Social History and Modern Intellectual History. Together with Dr Adam Branch, I am a co-editor of the Cambridge Centre of African Studies book series with Ohio University Press. I am a member of council of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA).
Summary of research interestsPlaces:
- Comparative & Global History
- Twentieth Century & After
My research explores intellectual histories and the history of political ideas in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, with a particular focus on Eastern Africa. I am interested in the potential which print cultures offer to explore global histories of political thought.
I am interested in the ways in which political ideas were forged in particular regional contexts in dialogue with transnational intellectual currents. My first book, Political Thought and the Public Sphere in Tanzania: freedom, democracy and citizenship in the era of decolonization, combined methodologies drawn from the history of political thought with a deep understanding of the social and political history of a locality to explore how universal questions of political theory were argued over in a specific context in a time of dramatic political change, using primarily Swahili-language sources. The arguments made in the book have enabled me to contribute to wider debates in the history of nationalism, decolonization and state-making in twentieth-century East Africa.
The second dimension of my research is the rethinking of global history from East Africa and histories of East African regionalism. I am currently leading a four-year research project entitled ‘Another World? East Africa and the Global 1960s’ which began in January 2019 and will run until December 2022, together with Dr Ismay Milford (Edinburgh), Dr Gerard McCann (York) and Professsor Daniel Branch (Warwick). I am also writing a new history of Tanzania in a global context for Cambridge University Press. From 2016-18 I was co-investigator of a British Academy project led by Chris Vaughan Negotiating region and state after independence: imagining and (de)constructing integration in East Africa, 1960s-70s.
Underpinning both dimensions of my research is an interest in newspapers and periodicals which I have written about both as sources and as objects of study in their own right. From 2015-2020 I worked with Leslie James and a wider group of scholars working in different disciplines on the colonial societies of Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, East and South East Asia to explore the relationship between print media and colonial society in a comparative perspective, and this led to a special issue of Itinerario published in 2020.
Current research activities
Global connections are brittle. The global turn in History and Politics has privileged long-term flows of people, capital and ideas, assuming the ubiquity and ever-increasing power of these connections. But the view from early postcolonial East Africa challenges this narrative. By studying East Africa’s textual cultures we will demonstrate that global connections were powerful and real at independence. But by the early 1970s, utopian ideas of a globally connected African future had been destroyed by introverted nationalism. This project, for which I am the principal investigator, interrogates key assumptions of the linearity of globalisation by exploring how a vision of a connected postcolonial world shattered.
Once approached primarily as part of the history of the West, liberalism has recently begun to receive attention from a global perspective. Yet the history of liberalism in twentieth-century Africa remains little studied. This is perhaps not surprising. As others have argued, there is an urgent need to revisit the history of liberalism in Africa and to recognise that much of this thought takes places in vernacular languages, in unexpected idioms and in unexpected places. Taking up this challenge was my focus in 2018-19 as the Quentin Skinner Fellow at CRASSH.
Politics and Power in Post-Colonial East Africa
The Bandung Moment: Revolution, Anti-Imperialism and Afro-Asian Connections in the Global Twentieth Century
Global Connections since 1450
|Name||Degree||Thesis topic||Supervision type||Link|
|Brice-Bennett, Nico||PhD||Tanzanian Christianity and Socio-Political Thought in the Nyerere Years: A Comparative Study of the Chagga of Kilimanjaro and the Haya of Kagera, 1954-1985||Secondary|
|Claringbold, Arran||PhD||Diversity during Zimbabwe's Independence Struggle: Abel Muzorewa's place in Zimbabwean nationalism||Primary||link|
|Heathcote, Daniel||PhD||Another World? East Africa and the Global 1960s||Primary|
|Zetterberg, Hugo||PhD||'How Did the French and British Press Portray Late Colonial Wars?'||Secondary|
Louisa Cantwell, 'Chiefship, power and state in the Bakgatla community in Botswana, 1870–2014', University of Cambridge (Primary supervisor)
Henry Dee, 'Clements Kadalie, Trade Unionism, Migration and Race in Southern Africa, 1918-30', University of Edinburgh (Co-Supervisor)
Donald Fraser, 'The rise and fall of the British veterinary profession in the agrarian development of Kenya, 1937-1967', University of Cambridge (Primary supervisor)
Maurice Hutton, 'Modernisers at work: the development plans and practices of the African Administration Department of late colonial Bulawayo, 1949-76', University of Edinburgh (Secondary supervisor)
Katherine Bruce-Lockhart, ‘Imagining Modernity in the Uganda Prisons Service, 1945-1979', University of Cambridge (Primary supervisor)
Brooks Marmon, 'Pan-Africanism Versus Partnership: African Decolonisation in Southern Rhodesian Politics, ca. 1950-1963' (Secondary supervisor)
Eva Namusoke, 'Church and State in Post-Colonial Uganda, 1962-1981’, University of Cambridge (Primary supervisor)
Catherine Porter, ‘Nationalism, Authority and Political Identity in the Secession of Katanga, 1908-1963’, University of Cambridge (Primary supervisor)
Currently accepting research student applications : Yes
Hunter, E, Political Thought and the Public Sphere in Tanzania: Freedom, Democracy and Citizenship in the Era of Decolonization, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015 (Winner of the RHS Gladstone Prize 2016; Finalist for the Bethwell A. Ogot Prize 2016)
Hunter, E, Citizenship, Belonging and Political Community in Africa: Dialogues between Past and Present, Athens OH: Ohio University Press, 2016
Peterson, D, Hunter, E and Newell, S, African Print Cultures: Newspapers and their publics in the twentieth century, Ann Arbor MI: University of Michigan Press, 2016
Hunter, E and James, L, 'Colonial Public Spheres and the Worlds of Print', Itinerario, 2020
Hunter, E., 'Languages of Freedom in Decolonising Africa', Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 27 (2017), 253-269
Hunter, E., 'Voluntarism, Virtuous Citizenship and Nation-Building in Late Colonial and Early Postcolonial Tanzania', African Studies Review, 58, 2 (2015), 43-61
Hunter, E, ‘Language, Empire and the World: Karl Roehl and the history of the Swahili Bible in East Africa’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 41, 4, 2013
Hunter, E, ‘Dutiful Subjects, Patriotic Citizens and the Concept of 'Good Citizenship' in Twentieth-Century Tanzania’, The Historical Journal, 56, 1, 2013, 257-277
Hunter, E, ‘'The History and Affairs of TANU': Intellectual History, Nationalism, and the Postcolonial State in Tanzania’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 45, 3, 2012, 365-383
Hunter, E, ‘'Our Common Humanity': print, power and the colonial press in interwar Tanganyika and French Cameroun’, Journal of Global History, July 2012, pp. 279-301
Hunter, E, 'African history on screen and in the classroom', African Research and Documentation, 2009
Hunter, E, ‘Revisiting Ujamaa: Political Legitimacy and the Construction of Community in Post-Colonial Tanzania’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 2, 2008, 471-485
Vaughan, C., McCann, G, Macarthur, J and Hunter, E., 'Thinking East African: Debating Federation and Regionalism, 1960-1977', in Matteo Grilli and Frank Gerits, eds., Visions of African Unity: New Perspectives on the History of Pan-Africanism and African Unity Projects, Palgrave Macmillan, 2021, pp. 49-75
Hunter, E., 'Print Media, the Swahili language and textual cultures in Twentieth-Century Tanzania, c. 1923-39' in Tony Ballantyne, Lachy Paterson and Angela Wanhalla eds., Indigenous Textual Cultures: Reading and Writing in the Age of Global Empire, Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2020
Hunter, E., 'Modernity, Print Media and the Middle Class in Colonial East Africa', in C. Dejung, D. Motadel and J. Osterhammel, eds., The Global Bourgeoisie: The Rise of the Middle Classes in the Age of Empire, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019, pp. 105-122
Ndulu, B.J., Mbowe W.E. and Hunter E., 'Ethnicity, Citizenry, and Nation-Building in Tanzania' in Hiroyuki Hino, Arnim Langer, John Lonsdale and Frances Stewart, eds., From Divided Pasts to Cohesive Futures: Reflections on Africa, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019, pp. 98-122
Hunter, E., 'Newspapers as Sources for African History' in Thomas Spear, ed., The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018
Hunter, E., '"Economic Man in East Africa” Revisited’ in B. Berman, A. Laliberté and S. Larin (eds.), The Moral Economies of Ethnic and Nationalist Claims, Toronto: UBC Press, 2016, pp. 101-122
Hunter, E., ‘Komkya and the convening of a Chagga public, 1953-1961’, in D. Peterson, E. Hunter and S. Newell (eds.), African Print Cultures: newspapers and their publics in the twentieth century, Ann Arbor: Michigan University Press, 2016, pp. 283-305
Hunter, E., 'Julius Nyerere, the Arusha Declaration and the deep roots of a contemporary political metaphor', in Marie-Aude Fouere, ed., Remembering Julius Nyerere in Tanzania: History, Memory, Legacy, Dar es Salaam: Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, 2015
Hunter, E, 'Julius Nyerere' in Jonathan Wright and Steven Casey, eds., Mental Maps in the Era of Detente and the End of the Cold War, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 81-96
Hunter, E, ‘A history of maendeleo: the concept of 'development' in Tanganyika's late colonial public sphere’, in Joseph Hodge, Martina Kopf and Gerald Hoedl, eds., Developing Africa: Concepts and Practices in Twentieth Century Colonialism, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014, pp. 87-107
Hunter, E, ‘In pursuit of the ‘higher medievalism’: local history and politics in Kilimanjaro’, in Derek Peterson and Giacomo Macola, eds., Recasting the Past: History Writing and Political Work in Modern Africa, Athens OH: Ohio University Press, 2009