Dr Kate Skinner (BA Oxford, MA Paris I, PhD Birmingham)

Dr Kate Skinner

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Reader in the History of Africa

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


  • BA with first class honours in Modern History, University of Oxford
  • Maîtrise avec mention très bien in Modern History, Université de Paris I (Panthéon-La Sorbonne)
  • PhD African Studies, University of Birmingham


I gained my first degree in Modern History from Oxford University, and took a Maîtrise at the Université de Paris I (Panthéon-La Sorbonne). I joined DASA as a PhD student, writing my dissertation on the nature of African political activism on the Ghana-Togo border from the 1950s to present-day. After working as Africa Editor at a news analysis company, I returned to DASA to take up a Nuffield Foundation New Career Development Fellowship with Lynne Brydon. This project focussed on mass literacy, adult education, and citizenship in Ghana, from the colonial era through to the end of the twentieth century. I was appointed as a lecturer in 2007, teaching on the History of Africa and its Diasporas. I served as Head of Department from 2014-17, REF lead for Area Studies at UoB 2018-21, and I now participate in the Institute of Global Innovation’s Gender Equality stream.


My undergraduate teaching ranges from basic study skills for students in the humanities and social sciences, through wide-ranging introductions to African History and to Atlantic Slavery. I also offer a more specialised module on colonialism, nationalism and pan-Africanism in Ghana, and teach sessions on archival research and oral history to students writing undergraduate and MA dissertations.

I completed the University of Birmingham’s Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education in 2012 and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. I won the 2012 Head of School’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Support to Student Learning for my research project on first-year students’ experiences of assessment and feedback. I published my findings in the journal Arts and Humanities in Higher Education.

Postgraduate supervision

Dr Skinner is currently supervising graduate students working on a range of topics in modern and contemporary African history and interdisciplinary African Studies. She is interested in supervising further projects relating to the social and political histories of modern and contemporary Ghana and Togo. She also welcomes proposals relating to political activism, gender activism, law, print cultures, mass literacy, and education in other African countries.

My current PhD students:

Ryan Colton, working on everyday governance under Ghana's military regimes (with Prof Nic Cheeseman)
Henry Brefo, working on chieftaincy and education in Asante, Ghana (with Dr Insa Nolte)
Chloe Bent, working on race, migration, and heritage in Treasure Beach, Jamaica (with Prof Gavin Schaffer and Dr Nathan Cardon)
Veera Tagliabue, working on migration and identity in South African higher education (with Dr Jessica Johnson and Dr Max Bolt)
Ouborr Kutando - working on elections and candidate primaries in Ghana (with Prof Nic Cheeseman)
Anukware Tchiimavor - working on gender and migration in francophone West African fiction (with Dr Berny Sebe)

My former PhD students:

Sangu Delle - worked on women tech entrepreneurs in Ghana, now working in the private sector
Kiranpreet Kaur - worked on colonial-era travel writing about Central Africa, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wolverhampton
Nathalie Raunet - worked on citizenship and belonging in the Ghana-Togo borderlands, now a postdoctoral researcher at the Free University of Berlin (SCRIPTS cluster)
Jovia Salifu - worked on women and microcredit in Ghana, now a lecturer at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana
Nimrita Rana – researched on South Asian migrant communities in Ghana, now working in private sector
Saima Nasar, now a lecturer at the University of Bristol, working on race, empire and diasporic communities, particularly East African Asians
Kwame Kwarteng, worked on the environmental history of Ghana, and now Dean of Arts at the University of Cape Coast

Find out more - our PhD African Studies  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


Disciplinary: History, political and social

Chronological: modern and contemporary

Regional: sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Ghana and Togo

Thematic: colonialism, nationalism, pan-Africanism, education, literacy, print culture, gender, law

My first two book projects were concerned with literacy, print cultures, and visions of nationhood in West Africa, with a particular focus on the republics of Ghana and Togo, and the borderlands between them (see publications list below). I am now working on new projects, which build on my longstanding interest in this region, explore the gendered dynamics of its political history, and highlight the particular challenges of nation-building and citizenship.

I am currently the PI on a project entitled ‘An Archive of Activism: gender and public history in postcolonial Ghana’. This project extends my earlier interest in political activism, but focuses on the organisations and strategies and strategies of gender activists and ‘political women’, particularly in the period between the mid 1960s and the early 1990s.

In 2019, I held a Leverhulme International Academic Fellowship, entitled ‘Learning, Leveraging and Living with the Law’. I was based at the University of Cape Coast (Ghana) for eight weeks, where I studied the evolution of legal pluralism over the twentieth century, and attempts to legislate on matters pertaining to the family in the post-Independence period.

Finally, I have been investigating West Africa’s first coup d'état, in which President Sylvanus Olympio of the Republic of Togo was assassinated. The story of this 1963 coup has often been told in terms of a military protest against austerity policies and ethno-regional bias. My research tells a different kind of story, about the challenges of small nations in the broader context of Cold War alignments and pan-African ambitions.


Recent publications


Skinner, K 2015, The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics and Nationalism, 1914-2014. African Studies, Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139870573


Skinner, K 2020, 'Gendering Citizenship and Decolonising Justice in 1960s Ghana: Revisiting the Struggle for Family Law Reform', American Journal of Legal History.

Skinner, K 2019, 'West Africa's first coup: neo-colonial and pan-African projects in Togo's "shadow archives"', African Studies Review, vol. 63, no. 2, pp. 375-398. https://doi.org/10.1017/asr.2019.39

Skinner, K 2014, 'Bridging gaps and jumping through hoops: First-year History students' expectations and perceptions of assessment and feedback in a research-intensive UK university', Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 359-376. https://doi.org/10.1177/1474022214531502

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Skinner, K 2020, A Different Kind of Union: An assassination, diplomatic recognition, and competing visions of African unity in Ghana-Togo relations (1956-63). in M Grilli & F Gerits (eds), Visions of African Unity: New Perspectives on the History of Pan-Africanism and African Unification Projects. African Histories and Modernities, Palgrave Macmillan.

Skinner, K 2018, Brothers in the bush: exile, refuge, and citizenship on the Ghana-Togo border, 1958-1966. in N Riley Carpenter & BN Lawrence (eds), Africans in Exile: Mobility, Law, and Identity. Framing the Global, Indiana University Press. <http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=809314>

Book/Film/Article review

Skinner, K 2019, 'Review of Living With Nkrumahism: Nation, State, and Pan-Africanism in Ghana, by Jeffrey S. Ahlman', The American Historical Review, vol. 124, no. 4.

Skinner, K 2018, 'Review of African Print Cultures: Newspapers and their Publics in the Twentieth Century, edited by Derek R. Peterson, Emma Hunter and Stephanie Newell', Africa, vol. 88, no. 4.

Skinner, K 2018, 'Review of Rebecca Shumway and Trevor R. Getz, Slavery and its Legacy in Ghana and the Diaspora', Journal of Global Slavery, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 326-328. https://doi.org/10.1163/2405836X-00303008

Skinner, K 2016, 'Review of Harcourt Fuller, Building the Ghanaian Nation-State: Kwame Nkrumah's Symbolic Nationalism', The American Historical Review, vol. 121, no. 5, pp. 1789-1790. https://doi.org/10.1093/ahr/121.5.1789

Skinner, K 2013, 'Review - Elites and Decolonization in the Twentieth Century, ed. Jost Dulffer and Marc Frey', English Historical Review, vol. 128, no. 533. https://doi.org/10.1093/ehr/cet152


Skinner, K 2013, 'Teaching the Research in Akan Gender History', History in Africa, vol. 40, no. s1.

Other contribution

Skinner, K 2018, Extended review of Carina E. Ray, Crossing the Color Line: Race, Sex, and the Contested Politics of Colonialism in Ghana (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2015). H-Net. <http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=47371>

Review article

Skinner, K 2018, 'Women, Gender, and "Specifically Historical" Research on Ghana: A Retrospective', Ghana Studies, vol. 21.

Scholarly edition

Skinner, K & Yayoh, W (eds) 2019, Writing the new nation in a West African borderland: Ablode Safui (the key to freedom) by Holiday Komedja. British Academy, Fontes Historiae Africanae series, vol. 16, Oxford University Press. <https://global.oup.com/academic/product/writing-the-new-nation-in-a-west-african-borderland-9780197266526?lang=en&cc=gb#>

View all publications in research portal


  • Modern history and current affairs of Ghana and Togo in West Africa
  • Political culture, literacy, and education (for both schoolchildren and adults)
  • Gender issues, including in family law reform and affirmative action


  • Countries of specialism: Ghana and Togo
  • Gender activism, including family law reform and affirmative action
  • Educational policy in Africa
  • Archives and heritage in Africa
  • Decolonisation in Africa
  • Gender activism in Africa