Dr Poppy Cullen
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
I am currently working on the AHRC-funded project 'Care for the Future – Afterlives of Empire: Thinking Forward Through an Imperial Past' with Professor Andrew Thompson. My research focuses on histories of Africa, especially Kenya, in the 1950s-80s. I am particularly interested in long histories of decolonisation, and continuities through the moment of independence. I also have an interest in humanitarianism and the role and history of NGOs in Africa
My past research has examined decolonisation and Britain's post-colonial engagement with Kenya, culminating in my first monograph: Kenya and Britain after Independence: Beyond Neo-Colonialism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). In this, I explored the multiple and multifaceted economic, military, personal and diplomatic networks which were sustained well beyond formal independence.
I am currently working on the AHRC-funded project 'Care for the Future – Afterlives of Empire: Thinking Forward Through an Imperial Past' with Professor Andrew Thompson. In this, I am focused on themes of decolonisation, humanitarianism and human rights. I am also working on a project with Professors Andrew Thompson and Steve McCorriston on NGOs in Africa in the 1960s. Here, we are exploring questions around ‘what makes an African NGO?’ and the involvement of NGOs in development.
My research more widely explores imperial and post-colonial histories of Africa. I am particularly interested in long histories of decolonisation, and continuities through the moment of independence. My work to date has explored these themes in relation to Britain and Kenya, examining business, military and diplomatic post-colonial connections. I am also interested in personal networks and the interaction between personal and institutional policy-making. My first monograph, Kenya and Britain after Independence: Beyond Neo-Colonialism (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017) focuses on Anglo-Kenyan relations from 1960 to 1980. It questions how the relationship which had been so difficult during Mau Mau in the 1950s became so close in the years after independence. It argues that this was largely due to Kenyan rather than British choices, concentrating on Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta and the elite surrounding him. It thus foregrounds the agency of Africans in post-colonial relationships.
I completed my undergraduate degree in History at the University of East Anglia, before undertaking an MA in Modern History and then PhD at Durham University. After completing my PhD in 2015, I worked for three years at the University of Cambridge as a Lecturer in Commonwealth History and Teaching Associate in African History. In 2018, I joined the University of Exeter as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the AHRC Care for the Future project.