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

Dr Kate Skinner

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Senior Lecturer in the History of Africa and its Diasporas

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT


I gained my first degree in Modern History from Oxford University, and took a Masters 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 investigated the history and present-day provision of adult education in different regions of Ghana, focusing on the relationship between mass literacy and citizenship. I was appointed as a lecturer in 2007, teaching on the History of Africa and its Diasporas. My most recent research focuses on the connections between formal schooling, local-language literacy and political mobilisation in the colonial and post-colonial periods.


I completed the 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, and published my findings in the journal Arts and Humanities in Higher Education.

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 research ethics and oral history to students writing undergraduate and Masters’ dissertations.

Postgraduate supervision

My current PhD students are working on gender and microcredit in Ghana, the Sindhi diaspora in West Africa, and East African Asian identities in diaspora.  I have also supervised MRes dissertations on elite secondary schooling in Ghana and on health education in Tanzania. I am interested in supervising new projects relating to the social and political histories of modern and contemporary Ghana and Togo. I also welcome proposals relating to political activism, propaganda, print culture, mass literacy and education in other sub-Saharan African countries.


I recently published a monograph which examines the connections between formal schooling, local-language literacy and political mobilisation along the Ghana/Togo border in the twentieth century.  Drawing on the life histories of grassroots activists, examples of local-language propaganda, and governmental and
diplomatic records, the book traces the emergence of competing visions of nationhood, and explains how the Ghana/Togo border question has been reformulated in the post-colonial era.  Learn more...

I am now working with Dr Wilson Yayoh (University of Cape Coast, Ghana) on a translation and close study of the African (Ewe) language newspapers which circulated along the Ghana-Togo border area before and after Independence. These sources are an essential corrective to governmental archives and the urban-based press, enabling us to understand the creative work carried out by rural activists, and to examine issues of legitimacy, spokesmanship and mass mobilization in rural areas during the late colonial and post-colonial period.  . Learn more...

I share with other DASA colleagues a commitment to collaborative and capacity-building relationships with African scholars. Between 2012 and 2015, the ESRC’s doctoral training partnership scheme has funded research training workshops and mentoring placements between DASA and five African partner institutions,
including the University of Ghana (Legon) and the University of Cape Coast (Ghana). Under a British Academy international partnership and mobility grant, Dr Wilson Yayoh and I have also convened a series of workshops on the theme of Beyond the National Archives: innovation and inter-disciplinarity in researching
Ghana’s past’.  Learn more….



  • The Fruits of Freedom in British Togoland: Literacy, Politics, and Nationalism 1914-2014 (New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • Ablode Safui (the Key to Freedom): Writing the New Nation in a West African Border Town 1958-63 (written with Dr Wilson Yayoh of the University of Cape Coast, Ghana, this translation and extended commentary of a Togolese Ewe-language newspaper is contracted to the British Academy for their Fontes Historiae Africanae series, estimated date of publication 2017)

Journal articles and chapters in edited collections

  • 2014 (under review) ‘Exiles, ambassadors and an assassination: the role of the Ghana-Togo border dispute in West Africa’s first coup d’état’ in African Borders at Independence, edited by Sévérine Awenengo Alberto (for Palgrave Macmillan’s African borderlands series)
  • 2011 ‘Who Knew the Minds of the People? Specialist knowledge and developmentalist authoritarianism in postcolonial Ghana.’ Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 39/2, pp. 297-323
  • 2010 ‘Local Historians and Strangers with Big Eyes: the politics of Ewe history in Ghana and its global diaspora.’ History in Africa 37, pp. 125-58
  • 2010 ‘From Pentecostalism to Politics: mass literacy and community development in late colonial Northern Ghana.’ Paedagogica Historica 46/3, pp. 307-23
  • 2009 ‘ “It brought some kind of neatness to mankind”: mass literacy, community development and democracy in 1950s Asante.’  Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 79/4, pp. 479-99
  • 2009 ‘Modernity and Danger: the Boy Kumasenu and the work of the Gold Coast Film Unit.’ Ghana Studies 12(co-authored with Peter Bloom), pp. 121-53
  • 2007 ‘Reading, Writing and Rallies: the politics of ‘freedom’ in southern British Togoland 1953-6.’ Journal of African History 48, pp. 123-47
  • 2007 ‘Agency and Analogy in African History: the contribution of extra-mural studies in Ghana.’ History in Africa 34, pp. 273-96

Teaching-related publications

  • 2014 ‘Bridging Gaps and Jumping Through Hoops: first-year History students’ expectations and perceptions of assessment and feedback in a research-intensive university’, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education (Online First)
  • 2013 ‘Teaching the Research in Akan Gender History’, History in Africa 40 (special anniversary issue), pp. s.31-5

Book reviews

  • Books reviewed for: English Historical Review, Women’s History Review and Journal of African History.


Modern history and current affairs of Ghana and Togo in West Africa; political culture, literacy, and education (for both schoolchildren and adults); women's issues, including reproductive health