Professor Emma Hunter (MA, MPhil, PhD, SFHEA)

Professor of Global and African History, Head of School


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. From 2018 to 2023 I was an Editor of the Journal of Eastern African Studies.

I am currently Head of the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

From 2019 to 2023 I was Principal Investigator for a Leverhulme-funded project ‘Another World? East Africa and the Global 1960s’ with Daniel Branch and Gerard McCann. In 2018-19 I was the Quentin Skinner Fellow in Intellectual History at CRASSH at the University of Cambridge. From October 2024 I will be Co-Investigator on a three-year AHRC-funded project 'Global Socio-Economic Rights, Local Contexts: Work in East Africa and Western Europe, 1880 to the Present'.

External appointments

I serve on the editorial boards of the journals Africa, the Journal of Eastern African Studies, Past and Present and Social History. Together with Dr Devon Curtis and Dr Bronwen Everill, I am a co-editor of the Cambridge Centre of African Studies book series with Ohio University Press. I am a member of the Editorial Board of the Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought book series.

Useful Links

Edinburgh Centre for Global History  

Responsibilities & affiliations

Edinburgh Centre for Global History

Honorary Secretary, British Institute in Eastern Africa

Undergraduate teaching

  • 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

Postgraduate teaching

  • African Print Cultures: Newspapers and their Publics in Modern African History, c. 1880-1975

Open to PhD supervision enquiries?


Areas of interest for supervision

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. 

Current PhD students supervised


  • Flanagan, Emma , PhD, Spaces, Places and Modes of Resistance: Uncovering Women's Anticolonial Resistance between French North and West Africa, 1940-1962
  • Heathcote, Daniel, PhD, 'Postcolonial Culture in Nairobi’s Margins 1963-c.1982'

Past PhD students supervised

  • 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 supervisor)

  • 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)

Research summary


  • Africa


  • Comparative & Global History
  • Ideas
  • Imperialism
  • Politics


  • 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.

One part of my research has focused on the ways in which ideas have been 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.

Together with Jon Earle, Nana Osei-Opare, Harry Odamtten and Ayesha Omar, I am an editor of a major two volume Cambridge History of African Political Thought, which will bring together current research in African intellectual history and political thought. I am also a member of the editorial board for the Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought book series.

From October 2024 I will be co-investigator on an AHRC-funded project entitled Global Socio-Economic Rights, Local Contexts: Work in East Africa and Western Europe, 1880 to the Present, led by Dr Julia Moses (University of Sheffield) with co-investigators Dr Max Chuhila (University of Dar es Salaam) and Professor Stefan Berger (Ruhr University Bochum). The project will investigate how socio-economic rights relating to work have come to be defined between international discourses, national policies and local understandings since the late nineteenth century, and how have they taken on different meanings in different contexts.

A 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 research project entitled ‘Another World? East Africa and the Global 1960s’ which began in January 2019 and will run until December 2023, together with Dr Ismay Milford (Edinburgh), Dr Gerard McCann (York) and Professsor Daniel Branch (Warwick) and we are writing a book provisionally entitled: Beyond Federation: Ideas and Practices of East African Regionalism in a National and Global Age, 1950-1975. 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. I am currently working with Zamda Geuza (Exeter/University of Dar es Salaam and George Roberts on an edited book provisionally entitled Press, Print and Publishing in Tanzania since Independence.

Research projects

Another World? East Africa and the Global 1960s




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)

Edited Books

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

Special Issue

Hunter, E and James, L, 'Colonial Public Spheres and the Worlds of Print', Itinerario, 2020


Milford, I., McCann, G., Hunter, E. and Branch, D., 'Another World? East Africa, Decolonisation and the Global History of the Mid-Twentieth Century', Journal of African History, 62, 3 (2021), 394-410,

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


Book chapters

Hunter, E., 'African Nationalisms' in Cathie Carmichael, Matthew d'Auria and Aviel Roshwald, eds., Cambridge History of Nationhood and Nationalism, Volume 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2023, pp. 280-299

James L. and Hunter, E., 'Communications and Media' in Andrew Denning and Heidi J. S. Tworek (eds.), The Interwar World, Routledge, 2024

Hunter, E., 'African Socialism' in Marcel van der Linden, ed., Cambridge History of Socialism, Volume 2, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022, pp. 455-473

Hunter, E., 'The history of political thought in the African political present' in Annabel Brett, Megan Donaldson and Martti Koskenniemi, eds., History, Politics, Law: Thinking through the international, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021

Hunter E. and Isaac J., ‘Sovereignty’, in G. Gerstle and E. Biagini, Cultural History of Democracy, Volume 6, London: Bloomsbury, 2021

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