Dr Toni Smith

Dr Toni Smith

Department of History
Research Fellow in History

Dr. Toni Smith’s research focuses on gender, sexuality, sexual exploitation, and abuse in colonial and contemporary contexts. She is a member of the Peacekeeper-Perpetrated Sexual Exploitation and Abuse research project and a trustee of GRACE International, a UK-based charity that supports children born of war


The University of Birmingham

  • PhD in African Studies – November 2020

The University of Birmingham

  • MA African Studies (Taught) – December 2015

The University of Brighton

  • BA Globalisation: History, Politics, Culture – June 2014


Before entering academia, I worked in the care sector, supporting people with learning disabilities, complex needs, mental health conditions, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. I later went on to complete a humanities degree in history and global politics at the University of Brighton, where I became interested in understanding more about European colonialism, oppression, and exploitation in Africa. I completed a master’s degree in African Studies at the University of Birmingham in 2015 and then a PhD in 2020. My doctoral research examined colonial histories of slavery and sexual and gender-based violence in the Belgian Congo during the early twentieth century. Since finishing my PhD, I have worked as a research and impact fellow in the Department of History.


Department of African Studies and Anthropology

Undergraduate Lectures:
  • Focus on Studying Societies: Sex and Gender Based Violence in the Congo
Undergraduate Seminars:
  • Slavery and Freedom in 20th Century Africa: Trajectories of Emancipation 
  •  Sexual Slavery and forced marriage in contemporary African wars


My recent work centres on two overlapping topics connected to gender-based violence and war: sexual exploitation and abuse committed by UN peacekeepers and the experiences of children born of war. My interest in these research areas evolved out of my doctoral work, which analysed colonial examples of sexual slavery, abuse, and impunity in the early Belgian Congo. 

With partners in Canada, I have been analysing UN peacekeeper training on the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (by peacekeepers on deployment). I am a member of the Peacekeeper-Perpetrated Sexual Exploitation and Abuse research project.

I am researching the challenges faced by children born of war, and I am involved in producing a Rapid Evidence Assessment for the UK government on children born of conflict-related sexual violence. I am a trustee of GRACE (Global Reconciliation, Advocacy, and Community-Building Engagement), a charity supporting children born of war and conflict-affected communities. I am particularly focused on addressing injustices and inequalities and gathering evidence on how best to support the needs of survivors of sexual violence, their children, and communities. I am passionate about drawing on research outcomes to inform policy and impact-related work.


  • Smith, T. (2022). Liberators or Perpetrators? Co-Opting, Committing, and Condoning Sexual Violence against Women and Girls in the Early Belgian Congo. Slavery and Abolition43(2), 366-393. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/0144039X.2022.2063235

View all publications in research portal