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Dr Ruth Watson

Dr Ruth Watson

University Lecturer in African History

Clare College
Memorial Court

Cambridge CB3 9AJ

Subject groups/Research projects

World History:

African history

Departments and Institutes

Clare College:
Fellow in History

Research Interests

My work explores the social and cultural history of colonial West Africa, particularly nineteenth- and twentieth-century Nigeria. I also have broad interests in histories of African urbanisation and African urban cultures. Currently, I am completing a project that examines the connections between literary culture, colonial society and the politics of 'respectability' in Yorubaland (southwestern Nigeria) during the early twentieth century. This grows out of my earlier work on chieftaincy and civic culture in the Yoruba city of Ibadan during the pre-colonial and colonial periods.

Research Supervision

I welcome students interested in studying the social and cultural history of nineteenth and twentieth-century West Africa, particularly Nigeria.


Undergraduate Teaching and Supervision

Part I

Paper 21: Empires and world history from the fifteenth century to the First World War

Paper 23: World history since 1914

Part II

Paper 25: The History of Africa from 1800 to the Present Day

Graduate Teaching and Supervision
I teach a history option for the MPhil in African Studies and I supervise MPhil dissertations on a wide range of topics.

Key Publications


'Civil Disorder is the Disease of Ibadan': Chieftaincy and Civic Culture in a Yoruba City (Oxford: James Currey, 2003)

Articles and Chapters

  • 'Beholding the Colonial Past in Claire Denis's Chocolat' in R. Mendelsohn and V. Bickford Smith (eds.) Black and White in Colour: African History on Screen (Double Storey: Cape Town, 2006)
  • '"What is our intelligence, our school going and our reading of books without getting money?" Akinpelu Obisesan and his diary, 1914-1929' in K. Barber (ed.) Africa's Hidden Histories: Everyday Literacy and Making the Self (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006)
  • 'Understanding the "Agbaje Affair": Chiefs and Politics in Ibadan, 1937-1951' in Olufemi Vaughan (ed.), Tradition and Politics: Indigenous Political Structures and Governance in Africa (Trenton NJ: Africa World Press, 2005).
  • 'Murder and the Political Body in Early Colonial Ibadan'. Africa 70:1 (2000), pp. 25-48.
  • '"Ibadan - A Model of Historical Facts": Militarism and Civic Culture in a Yoruba City'. Urban History 26:1 (1999), pp. 5-26.
  • The Cloth of Field of Gold: Material Culture and Civic Power in Colonial Ibadan'. Journal of Historical Sociology 11:4 (1998), pp. 461-491.