Dr Rebecca Simson

Dr Rebecca Simson

ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow

Department of Economic History

Room No
SAR 4.04
Office Hours
Thursdays 11:30 – 12:30

About me

My research explores social and economic processes of change in postcolonial Africa, with a focus on social mobility, social stratification and elite formation since independence. My PhD thesis, titled ‘(Under)privileged bureaucrats?: the changing fortunes of public servants in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, 1960-2010’, studied how three East African governments used their powers as the single largest employer in their respective countries to influence the structure of society after independence. It established the extent to which public sector employees dominated the income and educational elites of East Africa at independence and traced how the role and political salience of public employment ebbed over time.

Building on this work, my postdoctoral research looks in greater detail at education, employment and social mobility in postcolonial East Africa. My current projects exploit the fact that college and university attainment was historically (if less so today), a guarantee of stable, formal employment. Consequently, the inclusiveness and fluidity of this formal sector elite was in large part a function of how higher educational opportunities were distributed. Using census data, household survey data and educational statistics, my current work examines how access to tertiary education has changed over time and why. The findings will be related to current debates about class formation in Africa, and whether class divisions are calcifying.

Research interests

African economic history, inequality and social mobility, state development in Africa, public finance and aid.



EH211 Africa and the World Economy, 1500-2000


Recent publications

Simson, R. (2019 forthcoming) ‘Ethnic (in)equality in the public services of Kenya and Uganda,’ African Affairs

Expertise Details

African economic history; inequality and social mobility; state development in Africa; public finance and aid.