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.