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  • Writer's pictureCambridge Society For Economic Pluralism

Economic Theories and Africa's History

A CSEP talk by Prof. Gareth Austin on Economic Theories and Africa's History

Date and time

Tue, 29 November 2022, 16:00 – 17:30 GMT


Sidgwick Site, Sidgwick Lecture Block Room 2 5 West Road Cambridge CB3 9DP

What insights does economic theory have for explaining Africa's rich history, and informing the current development path of its diverse economies?

Prof. Gareth Austin's university training was at Cambridge (BA History; Clare College) and Birmingham (PhD, supervised by Professor A. G. Hopkins). His research on African economic history began with an undergraduate dissertation for which he undertook 8 weeks’ archival and oral research in Ghana, and continued – on a different part of the country – with his PhD. Though born in Nigeria (his father was an educational publisher, his mother worked in the administration of University College Ibadan), and despite a career-forming experience teaching in a community school in Kenya before going to university, Ghana became his primary observatory on Africa. Prof. Austin taught at the University of Ghana 1982-85. During the later 1970s and 1980s he travelled widely by public transport around all the countries in West Africa (except Mauretania), and in East and Northeast and West-Central Africa.

Prof. Austin moved to London in 1986, with an ESRC post-doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. In 1988 he began what became 22 years teaching in the Department of Economic History at the London School of Economics. In 2010 he moved to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, before returning to Cambridge in 2016, taking up the professorship of economic history. While based in Europe, he has continued to visit Africa in most years.

From undergraduate days onwards, he has been particularly interested in both African and comparative economic history, the latter with particular reference to Asia and Latin America. This dual interest is reflected in his teaching, which focuses on comparative and global as well as African economic history. Inspired by Professor Patrick O'Brien, he was an early enthusiast for the renaissance of Global History. Previously an editor of the Journal of African History, he was one of the proposers of the new Journal of Global History (launched in 2006), and served as president of the European Network in Universal and Global History, 2008-12. He has been an academic visitor/guest professor at the University of Cape Town, Kyoto University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Graduate Institute (Geneva), Kansai University, Macquarie University, Paris School of Economics, University of Ghana, Universidad de la República (Montevideo), and the University of the Witwatersrand.

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