Dr Matthew  Benson

Dr Matthew Benson

Sudans Research Director

Conflict and Civicness Research Group

Key Expertise
Social and economic history and political economy

About me

Dr Matthew Benson is the Research Director of the Sudans programme, researching both Sudan and South Sudan, within LSE IDEAS’ Conflict and Civicness Research Group. Dr Benson’s research is at the intersection of social and economic history and political economy with a focus on how marginalised communities might be able to disrupt historic patterns of state predation.

Matthew is currently researching how decarbonisation might transform how war is financed and shape conflict and peace dynamics in the 21st century. The first component of this project is underway in 2023-2024 as Matthew collaboratively leads an update to a dataset on transnational conflict in Africa to identify and trace how conflicts on the continent have been financed from post-independence into the present. This includes a focus on the extent to which African petrostates have been engaged in interstate conflicts. This aspect of the project builds from Matthew’s doctoral thesis and post-doctoral research which examined how state and armed group revenue raising practices from the start of British colonial occupation to the present contributed to elite state capture.

Matthew is also currently combining his doctoral thesis entitled: ‘Taxation, Local Government and Social Control in Sudan and South Sudan, 1898-1956’ with 500 interviews conducted throughout both Sudans into a book manuscript. The text will help rethink integral notions of state-society ties including the changing nature of war, state and armed group finance, and state formation in the 21st century.

Matthew’s other on-going research projects include research into how South Sudanese communities relate to natural resources and how they might be able to limit extractive politics and changing narratives of civicness or 'medania' in Sudan's democratic transition. These projects explicitly examine how underrepresented communities’ economic and social conditions and changing political thought might transform politics in the region. These projects frequently involve close collaboration with research networks in Sudan and South Sudan, including the Bridge Network of South Sudanese researchers.

Prior to joining LSE, Matthew’s career combined academic, policy and operational roles and this experience continues to enrich his academic research, approach to informing policy debates and his research management of the CCRG. Over the past 15-years Matthew held posts in South Sudan with Crown Agents and in Sudan with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and researched how to provide public services more equitably in conflict-affected societies with the World Bank, the Rift Valley Institute, the Overseas Development Institute, the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and Oxfam America.

Matthew earned his PhD in History and MA in Economic and Social History from Durham University. Matthew also holds an MA in Governance and Development from the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, and a BA in International Relations from Tufts University.