Dr Silke Strickrodt

Dr Silke Strickrodt

Department of African Studies and Anthropology
Visiting Research Fellow

Contact details

I am a historian of West Africa with a particular interest in the precolonial and early colonial periods. My research focuses on the history of Afro-European encounters in the context of trade, Christian mission and scientific exploration, as well as the economic, political, social and cultural changes which these encounters have entailed for African societies and individuals. 


  • MA English Studies, Portuguese Studies, African Studies (Leipzig 1997)
  • PhD History (Stirling 2003)


I came to African Studies and African History through my fascination with languages. I was a student of English and Portuguese Studies at the University of Leipzig, where I started to learn Swahili, which led me to take African Studies as a minor subject. Having spent a year studying at SOAS (1993-4) during my time as a Leipzig student, I in 1997 won a PhD scholarship from the University of Stirling. My project, supervised by Robin Law, dealt with Afro-European trade on the western ‘Slave’ Coast in the precolonial period. It included fieldwork in Bénin, Ghana and Togo.

From 2003 to 2008, I taught African History at the Humboldt University in Berlin, where I was also a students’ advisor.

From 2008 to 2015, I was based at the German Historical Institute London (GHIL). Besides research – including fieldwork in Sierra Leone on female education in the nineteenth century – this post entailed the organisation of conferences and public lectures. I was co-convener of the ‘Christian Missions in Global History’ Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research (IHR), University of London.

In 2013/14 I was Visiting Professor of African History at the Humboldt University in Berlin, with a full professorial teaching load at BA, MA and PhD levels.

In 2015 I was Visiting Research Fellow at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin.


I would be delighted to speak to undergraduate or graduate students working on precolonial and early colonial Africa.

Postgraduate supervision

I would be happy to offer supervisory advice to graduate students working on precolonial and early colonial Africa.

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


My recent monograph deals with the development of Afro-European trade, mainly in slaves but also in ivory and agricultural products, in what are today coastal Togo and parts of Bénin and Ghana over a period of 300 years. It comprises a detailed reconstruction of the political and social history of two states, known to Europeans as Little Popo and Great Popo. Central issues include state building, the relationship between war and the slave trade, and the role of Africans in a globalising world.

My current project also springs from my interest in slavery and post-slavery. I am researching the development of female elite education in the British colony of Sierra Leone in the nineteenth century, focussing on how formal education enabled girls descended from liberated slaves to achieve social mobility.

Another research interest is the production of knowledge about Africa. My MA dissertation examined the portrayal of Africa in the works of the British writer Sarah Bowdich/ Lee. I am working on the British navy’s surveys of the African coast in the mid-nineteenth century. First ideas were presented in the Annual Lecture of the Hakluyt Society in June 2015.

My interest in biographical approaches has led to several workshops, resulting in co-edited special issues of the Journal of Southern African Studies (2012) and the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth Studies (forthcoming, 2016). I attach special importance to the retrieval of African ‘voices’ from European documents. Thus in my article ‘Aballow’s Story’ (2013) I use judicial records to reconstruct the experiences of an enslaved woman on the nineteenth-century Gold and Slave Coasts.

Other activities

  • Member of the Committee of the ‘Fontes Historiae Africanae’ project of the British Academy (since 2012)
  • Council member of the Hakluyt Society (since 2011)


Authored books

  • 2015. Afro-European Trade in the Atlantic World: The Western Slave Coast, c.1550 – c.1885, Woodbridge and Rochester, NY: James Currey.
  • 1998. ‘Those Wild Scenes’. Africa in the Travel Writings of Sarah Lee (1791-1856). Glienecke/Berlin and Cambridge/Mass.: Galda & Wilch.

Edited books

  • 2013, with Robin Law und Suzanne Schwarz. Commercial Agriculture, the Slave Trade and Slavery in Atlantic Africa, Woodbridge and Rochester, NY: James Currey. Includes Law/Schwarz/Strickrodt, ‘Introduction’ (pp. 1-27).
  • 2006. Africa, vol. 1 of Women Writing Home, 1700-1920: Female Correspondences across the British Empire, 6 vols., general editor: Klaus Stierstorfer, London: Pickering & Chatto. Includes Strickrodt, ‘Introduction’ (pp. xxvii-xliii).
  • 1999, with Robin Law. 1999. Ports of the Slave Trade (Bights of Benin and Biafra): Papers from a Conference of the Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling, June 1998, Stirling: Centre of Commonwealth Studies, University of Stirling, 1999.

Special (edited) issues of journals

  • Forthcoming, with Achim von Oppen. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth Studies (November 2016): special issue on ‘Biographies between Spheres of Empire’. Includes von Oppen/Strickrodt, ‘Introduction’.
  • 2012. Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana, new series, 14: part special issue on ‘Studies in West African Coastal History before 1800’ (pp. 1-130). Includes Jones/Strickrodt, ‘Introduction: Recent Research on the Early Modern History of Atlantic Africa’ (pp. 1-12) and Strickrodt, ‘In Search of a Moral Community: Little Popo and the Atlantic Trade in the Mid-Eighteenth Century’ (pp. 105-30).
  • 2012, with Achim von Oppen. Journal of Southern African Studies, 38/3: part special issue on ‘Religious Biographies in Southern Africa’ (pp. 429-90). Includes von Oppen/Strickrodt, ‘Introduction: Religious Biography – Transcending Boundaries’ (pp. 429-32).

Articles in scholarly journals

  • 2010. ‘African Girls’ Samplers from Mission Schools in Sierra Leone (1820s to 1840s)’, History in Africa: A Journal of Method, 37, pp. 189-245.
  • 2007. ‘“If she no learn, she no get husband.” Christianity, Domesticity and Education at the Church Missionary Society’s Female Institution in Nineteenth-Century Sierra Leone’, Comparativ, 5-6: Christian Space and the Shaping of Gender Identities in Africa, ed. Adam Jones, pp. 14-35.
  • 2001. ‘A Neglected Source for the History of Little Popo: The Thomas Miles Papers c.1789-1796’, History in Africa: A Journal of Method, 28, pp. 293-330.

Selected contributions to edited books

  • 2013. ‘Aballow's Story: The Experience of Slavery in Mid-Nineteenth Century West Africa, as Told by Herself’, in: African Voices on Slavery and the Slave Trade, ed. Alice Bellagamba, Sandra E. Greene and Martin Klein, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 387-403.
  • 2011. ‘The Atlantic Slave Trade and a Very Small Place in Africa: Global Processes and Local Factors in the History of Little Popo, 1680s to 1860’, in: The End of Slavery in Africa and the Americas: A Comparative Approach, ed. Ulrike Schmieder, Katja Füllberg-Stolberg and Michael Zeuske, Berlin: LIT, 15-26.
  • 2010. ‘Die brasilianische Diaspora in Westafrika im 19. Jahrhundert’, in: Afrika 1500-1900: Geschichte und Gesellschaft, ed. Andreas Eckert, Ingeborg Grau and Arno Sonderegger, Vienna: Promedia, 194-271. (This is a translation of: ‘The Brazilian Diaspora’, 2008: see below.)
  • 2009. ‘British Abolitionist Policy on the Ground in West Africa in the Mid-Nineteenth Century’, in: The Changing Worlds of Atlantic Africa: Essays in Honor of Robin Law, ed. Matthew D. Childs and Toyin Falola, Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 155-172.
  • 2008. ‘The Brazilian Diaspora to West Africa in the Nineteenth Century’, in: AfrikaAmerika: Atlantische Konstruktionen, ed. Ineke Phaf-Reinberger and Tiago de Oliveira Pinto, Frankfurt a. M.: Vervuert, 36-68.
  • 2003. ‘“Afro-Brazilians” of the Western Slave Coast in the Nineteenth Century’, in Enslaving Connections: Western Africa and Brazil during the Era of the Slavery, ed. José C. Curto und Paul  E. Lovejoy, Amherst, N. Y.: Prometheus/Humanity Books, 213-224.
  • 2001. ‘Une source négligée de l'histoire de Petit-Popo: les archives de Thomas Miles 1789-1796’, in: A l'écoute de l'histoire, vol. 1 of Le tricentenaire d'Aneho et du pays guin, ed. Nicoué Lodjou Gayibor, Lomé, 59-101. (This is a French translation of ‘A Neglected Source’, 2001: see above.)

Selected recent book reviews and conference reports

  • 2013. Journal of African History, 54, pp. 314-16: Review of Kevin G. Lowther, The African American Odyssey of John Kizell: A South Caroline Slave Returns to Fight the Slave Trade in His African Homeland, Columbia, SC: The University of South Carolina Press, 2011.
  • 2012. GHIL Bulletin, 34/2, pp. 118-25 and H-Soz-u-Kult, 07.11.2012: Conference report, with Heike Liebau, Achim von Oppen and Sophie Roche: ‘Ruptures and Linkages: Biography and History in the South’ (London, 16-18 Feb. 2012).
  • 2011. Journal of African History, 51, pp. 422-24: Review of Elizabeth E. Prevost, The Communion of Women: Missions and Gender in Colonial Africa and the British Metropole, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2010.
  • 2006. Journal of African History, 47, pp. 505-06: Review of Wulff Joseph Wulff, A Danish Jew in West Africa: Wulff Joseph Wulff: Biography and Letters 1836-1842, ed. S. A. Winsnes, Trondheim: Faculty of Arts, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, 2004.
  • 2006. The English Historical Review, CXXI, 490, pp. 226-30: Review of K. Morgan, R. Law, J. Oldfield and D. Ryden (eds), The British Transatlantic Slave Trade (4 vols.), London: Pickering & Chatto, 2003.
  • 2005. Journal of African History, 46, pp. 546-7: Review of C. H. Gilliland (ed.), Voyage to a Thousand Cares: Master’s Mate Lawrence with the African Squadron, 1844-1846, Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 2004.