African Studies celebrates milestone

The University is celebrating its long history of African engagement with a landmark conference.

The conference - CAS@50: Cutting Edges and Retrospectives - celebrates the fiftieth birthday of the University’s Centre of African Studies.

Founded in 1963, the Centre brings together experts in the study of Africa from across the University, Scotland and further afield.

This conference allows us to reflect on the University’s long history of African engagement and highlights our contributions towards greater understanding of the issues facing Africa today.

Paul NugentDirector of African Studies, University of Edinburgh

Centre of African Studies

Over the past 50 years, the Centre has generated leading research on many aspects of Africa.

Its activities include teaching and supervision, seminars, conferences and workshops, fund-raising for scholarships, and many social events.

The Centre also relates African Studies to the wider community through links with major educational and cultural organisations in Africa and Scotland.

Watch a video interview about the history of African studies at the University of Edinburgh.

University and Africa

The University’s educational links with Africa can be traced back to the nineteenth century, and many missionaries who trained at New College at this time went on to work in Africa.

James ‘Africanus’ Horton (1835-1883) of Sierra Leone was the University’s first recorded Black African graduate.

Horton qualified as a doctor in 1859, served as a physician, army officer, banker and author, and is seen as one of the fathers of African nationalism.

Many Africans were to follow James Horton to Edinburgh, including the late Julius Nyerere. Julius Nyerere was a teacher who went on to become President of Tanzania, where he is still revered as ‘Father of the Nation’.

As President of Tanzania, Nyerere oversaw the unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar and was later a leader of the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.

Nyerere received a scholarship in 1949 to study in the UK and chose to attend the University of Edinburgh, where he obtained a Masters of Arts degree that saw him study a wide range of subjects, including Economics and History.

In 1962 Nyerere was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws from the University, and in 1997 - only two years before his death - he returned to teach and conduct seminars at the Centre of African Studies.


The conference, which takes place between June 6-8, will look at important issues that relate to the African continent, including politics, development and climate change.

Speakers include Jean-Francois Bayart - a leading researcher on African politics from the Centre for International Studies and Research, Sciences Po - and New York University’s Frederick Cooper, an expert on slavery and decolonisation.

Within the conference, the African Borderlands Research Network (ABORNE) will host delegates from the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

They will participate in a landmark Borders Day videoconference with additional contributions from the European Commission, the Association of European Border Regions, and partner organisations in Chile.

For more details, see: