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London School of Economics and Political Science
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Dr Joanna Lewis

Assistant Professor

Other Titles: Deputy Chair of Undergraduate Examinations, Equality and Diversity Officer, Cumberland Lodge Event Coordinator
Research Interests:
Modern Africa History
Room: SAR.3.03
Tel: +44 (0)20 7955 7924

Dr Lewis came to LSE in 2004, previously having held lectureships at Cambridge University, SOAS and Durham University. Her doctoral research was on colonial governance and development in Kenya supervised by Professor John Lonsdale, Faculty of History, Cambridge University. She then held a four year ESRC Research Fellowship in war and reconstruction at the African Studies Centre and a Teaching Fellowship at Churchill College. She also has a Master's in International Relations from Cambridge and has been Director of Studies in History at Corpus Christi and Churchill College, and briefly Director of the African Studies Centre where she is a research associate still. She is Welsh.

Dr Lewis received a generous grant in 2012  from the LSE Annual Fund to support a conference to mark the bi-centennary of Livingstone's birth. "Imperial Obessions: David Livingstone's life and legacy reassessed" will be held in Livingstone, Zambia in April 2013, near the Victoria Falls. For further information,  see Livingstone Zambia 2013. In 2011, Row Zambezi was a supported project inspired by an LSE history student who with others rowed down part of the Zambezi for WaterAid.

Dr Lewis's main research interests are: British colonial rule in Africa;  the empire in British culture, society and politics; and media history. These  roughly translate into race and white settlers; memorialisations and great deaths; David Livingstone; Mau Mau in Kenya; Robert Mugabe and post-colonial Britain; gender and women's history; liberalism and humanitarianism.


Dr Lewis teaches the following courses:

At undergraduate level:

HY113: From Empire to Independence: The Extra-European World in the Twentieth Century (taught with other members of staff in the Department)

HY240: From Empire to Commonwealth: War, Race and Imperialism in British History, 1780 to 1979

At Masters level:

HY436: Race, Violence and Colonial Rule in Africa

Watch Dr Joanna Lewis talk about her courses, how they are structured and how students can benefit from taking them in order to better understand the world we live in today.

HY240: From Empire to Commonwealth

HY436: Race, Violence and Colonial Rule in Africa

Videos recorded in May 2015 | All information accurate at time of recording


Dr Lewis also supervises the following PhD students:

Research Student Provisional Thesis Title
Gary Blank British Foreign Policy and the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970)
Rosalind Coffey British Press Coverage of Decolonisation in Africa, 1957-60
Jonas Gjersø The Evolving Motives of British Policy in East Africa, 1877-1896 
Benjamin Greening Conservative Politics in the British Caribbean during the Period of Decolonisation, 1950-1980
Mark O'Connor Imperial Justice at the Sunset of Empire: A Study of the Evolving Role and Ideology of the British Colonial Legal Service, 1933-1966

Dr Lewis's latest publication is entitled ‘“White Man in a Wood Pile”: Race and the Limits of Macmillan’s great “Wind of Change” in Africa’, in Stockwell & Butler, The Wind of Change (Palgrave-Cambridge Post-Colonial Studies Series, 2013) 70-95. This article used  newspaper sources and hitherto lost depositions from African trades union leaders and compared with government records to show that race and racism was a much bigger factor in  a tense and messy decolonisation process than the official record would have us believe. Three months  after this was published, the FCO admitted that in a secret Operation Legacy ordered by Iain Macloed in 1961, officials were instructed to burn and  destroy the ashes of any papers which might embarrass future HMG governments especially if showing signs of ‘racial prejudice or religious bias’ (Ian Cobain, ‘Revealed: the bonfire of the papers at the end of Empire’, The Guardian, 29 Nov, 2013.

She has just finished an article on David Livingstone and the Victorian press: 'Africa and anti-slavery at the "heart of the nation":  A re-examination of the  death  of David Livingstone and Victorian mourning circa 1874' in Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (2014, forthcoming).

Her 2002 article ""Daddy wouldn't buy me a Mau Mau" has recently been selected for republication in a collection edition by Martin Shipway on the most influential recent articles on decolonisation.

She is currently researching on Robert Mugabe and Britain's post-colonial hangover.

Read Dr Lewis's review of Ronald Hyam's Understanding the British Empire (2010).

Other recent academic publications include:

  • 'Harold MacMillan and the Wind of Change', in Wm. Roger Louis (ed.), Resurgent adventures with Britannia, Personalities, Politics and Culture in Britain (I. B. Tauris, 2011);
  • 'Nasty, brutish and in shorts? British colonial rule, violence and the historians of Mau Mau', The Round Table Journal, (April 2008);
  • 'Carry on up the Solent: Southampton's reception for the mortal remains of Dr David Livingstone', in Miles Taylor (ed) Southampton: Gateway to Empire? (I. B. Tauris, 2008);
  • with Philip Murphy, '"The old pal's protection society": The Colonial Office and the media on the eve of decolonisation', in Chandrika Kaul (ed) The press and empire (Manchester University Press, 2006);
  • '"Daddy wouldn't buy me a Mau Mau": the British popular press and the demoralisation of empire' in J. Lonsdale & A. Odhiambo, (eds.) Mau Mau and nationhood: arms, authority and narration (James Currey: Oxford, 2003)

Full list of publications on LSE Research Online


Dr Joanna Lewis’s  most recent media appearances include Radio 4 Melvyn Bragg In Our Time on the Scramble for Africa last broadcast on 31 October 2013; and a  Sky/National Geographic Magazine’s documentary on The Lost Diary of Dr Livingstone in their award winning  Secrets of the Dead series.


International History Student in Row Zambezi Expedition 2011

Dr Lewis has written a short essay in support of the Row Zambezi Expedition 2011. A charity event, designed to raise money for Water Aid, it is being organised by a second year History student, Oliver Cook. Dr Lewis was happy to be able to support this event following Livingstone's journey down the river, and she looks forward to seeing the team at the finishing line near Victoria Falls in the summer.