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Dr George Roberts

Dr George Roberts

Junior Research Fellow, Trinity College

Trinity College

Cambridge CB2 1TQ


I grew up in the UK and first came to Cambridge to study for my BA in History (2012). I then completed a Masters in European Studies at the College of Europe in Warsaw (2013), before beginning a PhD in History at Warwick (2016). After finishing my doctoral studies, I spent a year as a Teaching Fellow at Warwick. In July 2017, I returned to Cambridge to begin a four-year Junior Research Fellowship at Trinity College.

Subject groups/Research projects

World History:

Departments and Institutes

Trinity College:
Junior Research Fellow

Research Interests

I am presently adapting my thesis, entitled 'Politics, decolonisation, and the Cold War in Dar es Salaam, 1965-72' for publication as a monograph. This project pushes further a recent shift in the historiography of the Cold War from a Eurocentric focus to a more global approach, which explores the impact of the superpower rivalry in the Third World. In Africa and Asia, the global Cold War intersected with the other metadynamic of the mid-late twentieth century, decolonisation. Cities like Algiers, Cairo, and Saigon became urban spheres of anticolonial dissent and superpower activity. In Tanzania, President Julius Nyerere's provocative foreign policy and commitment to the cause of African liberation turned Dar es Salaam into a similar political entrepot. An array of local politicians, guerrilla leaders, radical intellectuals, diplomats, and foreign correspondents turned Dar es Salaam into a 'Cold War city': on account of the political gossip that engulfed its bars, streetcorners, and newspaper offices, Nyerere dubbed it 'Rumourville'.

My project situates various entangled case studies within this urban sphere: the glacial rivalry between West and East Germany, Tanzania's experience of the 'global 1968', and the activities of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). These overlapping narratives are nested within a broader history of post-colonial Tanzanian politics, which challenges prevailing nationalist stories that are either tied to the totemic figure of Nyerere or elide high politics altogether. In all instances, I seek to elucidate the role played by often marginalised African actors, who actively shaped the course of the global Cold War and decolonisation. The multilateral approach to politics in Dar es Salaam has led me to conduct archival research and oral interviews in Belgium, Britain France, Germany (both East and West), the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, South Africa, Tanzania, and the United States. I hope to supplement this with archival material from India and Uganda in the near future.

I am also developing a postdoctoral project entitled 'Abdulrahman Mohammed Babu: the life and death of East Africa's revolutionary left'. This will use the trajectory of Babu, a Zanzibari revolutionary who emerges as a critical figure in my PhD research, to address Africa's postcolonial experience from the perspective of an eclipsed Pan-African and Marxist left, mixing local politics with global intellectual shifts.

My broader interests include the history of the global South, international affairs in post-colonial Africa, and contemporary politics in East Africa, especially Tanzania.

Other Professional Activities

I currently serve as the Postgraduate and Early Career Researcher Representative for the British International History Group.

I tweet @g_m_roberts.

Key Publications

Rumourville: African Liberation and the Cold War in Post-Colonial Dar es Salaam, book manuscript under preparation.

‘Press, propaganda, and the German Democratic Republic’s search for recognition in Tanzania, 1964-1972’, in Philip E. Muehlenbeck and Natalia Telepneva (eds), Warsaw Pact Intervention: Aid and Influence in the Cold War (London: IB Tauris, forthcoming 2018).

'The assassination of Eduardo Mondlane: FRELIMO, Tanzania, and the politics of exile in Dar es Salaam', Cold War History, 17 (2017), 1-19.

'The Uganda-Tanzania War, the fall of Idi Amin, and the failure of African diplomacy, 1978-1979', Journal of Eastern African Studies8 (2014), 692-709.

Other Publications

Review of Étudiants Africains en Mouvements: contribution à une histoire des années 1968, eds Françoise Blum, Pierre Guidi, and Ophélie Rillon, in Social History, 43 (2018), 289-90.

I have written on contemporary Tanzanian politics for the Exeter Imperial and Global History Forum, about Chinese-Tanzanian solidarities (and their enemies) for the Afro-Asian Visions blog, and about the Tanzanian state's responses to economic globalisation for the Durham Centre for Contemporary African History blog.