I joined the University of Dundee in 2012 as a lecturer in History, having completed my PhD at the University of Sheffield (2008-2011).
I am a historian of modern, sub-Saharan Africa, with a particular focus on South Africa. My core research interests include: national liberation movements; nationalism; the 'invention' of traditions; political transitions; and the development of post-colonial governance.
In 2013, I became a Research Associate at the International Studies Group (ISG), at the University of the Free State in South Africa, a position I still hold. This honorary position provides me with a presence within a South African university, the ability to work closely with academics in the country, to access resources for my research, and to maintain close links between our universities. The ties that I have with the University of the Free State were further cemented with the award of a British Academy Newton Fellowship in 2017.
My undergraduate teaching focuses on Twentieth Century Africa and the major political developments on the continent after World War II. I currently offer an introductory course on African history at Level 3, and a specific case study of South Africa at Level 4. I ensure that a range of innovative teaching activities (such as Wikis) and assignments (including Podcasts) are used in these modules, while primary sources are incorporated into all of my teaching to enhance the student experience.
I am currently the Senior Admissions Officer for the School of Humanities.
I am a member of the Scottish Centre for Global History: http://globalhistory.org.uk/
Matt was the 2015 winner of a CASS Teaching & Good Practice Award in the category Early Career Lecturer, and a 2014 winner of a DUSA Student Led Teaching Award in the category Best Teacher for Assessment and Feedback. He has also been nominated for various teaching awards including the School of Humanities, Jim Stewart Tutor of the Year Award (2016/17 & 2017/18), and DUSA’s SLTA for Most Inspirational Teaching (2016/17) and Best Assessment and Feedback (2015/16).
A core part of my most recent research was completing a single-authored book on the African continent: Contemporary Africa. This book was written for those wanting to learn more about the continent, and to help explain one of the most misunderstood regions in the world. In an engaging and accessible fashion, through the use of multiple examples and case-studies from across the continent, the book provides a short and clear introduction into contemporary Africa’s social, economic, political, and cultural composition. The book offers a lively assessment of key issues regarding the continent addressing themes such as African nationalism, decolonisation, the causes of conflict, and economic progress, as well as providing informative insights and analysis into topics including social movements, film, literature, and the diaspora. The book offers a concise, informative and fascinating account of this vibrant continent.
The next core research project will be on South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, in which I seek to explore further (based on previous research) the events and activities of the process and some of its political and societal outcomes. In doing so, I wish to provide further insights into this previously neglected period and to also chart the ways in which the transition continues to affect post-apartheid South Africa in a number of spheres. One way of contextualising these themes is through that of a long-transition, and moving away from the narrow, traditionally defined confines of the 1990-1994 period.
Past research projects have included a focus on Southern Africa’s former national liberation movements, and the ways in which the concept of a collective, regional solidarity in the struggle against white minority rule was created and perpetuated. With a particular focus on the African National Congress (ANC), this research explored the role of ‘liberation solidarity’ and the ways in which the historical record and the realities of exile have been subsumed to serve current political demands. I aimed to look beyond the collective amnesia of the regions’ movements, by exploring how the ‘official’ narrative has been constructed and trying to delve into the self-serving ‘myths’ propagated by these parties. Moreover, I have also published on the collective efforts of South Africa’s liberation movements to establish a unified opposition to apartheid in the early 1960s, with a particular focus on South Africa’s role within the Commonwealth. This research demonstrated the various initiatives that were pursued through the South Africa United Front from 1960-62, and how these were closely intertwined the rise of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement.
I have also carried out previous research on the foreign policy of the ANC and its foreign policy, charting the continuities and discontinuities of its policies from exiled liberation movement to governing political party, 1960-2007. The core pivot of this project revolved around the transition process by exploring the opportunities and constraints this process had not only on the ANC, but also the post-apartheid government. In doing so, I sought to convey how the ANC created and developed its foreign policy ideals, not only against the experiences of exile, its hopes for the future, but also the constraints and influences of the transition process itself, as well as actors such as the apartheid era civil service and western governments.
I am a member of the Scottish Centre for Global History: http://globalhistory.org.uk/
Suggested areas for postgraduate supervision
I would welcome enquiries from potential research students interested in late colonial and post-colonial Africa, in particular the Southern African region. Suggested themes might include:
- The Cold War in Africa
- African politics and society
- Political transitions
- Regional liberation struggles
- Post-colonial governance
- White minority rule
Contemporary Africa: Contemporary States and Societies Series (Macmillan / Red Globe Press, 2018)
The Crisis of South African Foreign Policy and the ANC: Diplomacy, Leadership and the Role of the African National Congress (I.B. Tauris, 2016)
‘Campaigning against apartheid: The rise, fall and legacies of the South Africa United Front’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (2018) DOI: 10.1080/03086534.2018.1506871.
‘The ANC and the ‘Myth’ of Liberation Solidarity: ‘Othering’ in Post-apartheid South(ern) Africa’, Africa Insight , 44, 1 (2014), pp. 176-190.
‘Social Media as a tool for increased student participation and engagement outside the classroom in Higher Education’, Journal of Perspectives in Applied Academic Practice, 2, 3 (2014), pp. 16-24.
'Foreign Policy in Transition: The ANC’s search for a foreign policy direction during South Africa’s transition, 1990-1994', The Round Table Journal, (2012) pp. 405-423. (Awarded the Hodson Memorial Prize for 2011)
‘Coming in from the cold: The Transitional Executive Council and South Africa’s reintegration into the international community’, Journal of Commonwealth and Comparative Politics, 49, 3 (2011), pp. 359-378.
‘Covert Collusion? American and South African relations during the Angolan Civil War, 1974-1976’, African Historical Review, 43, 1 (2011), pp. 28-47.
‘Finding Foreign Policy: Researching in Five South African Archives’, History in Africa: A Journal of Method, 37 (2010), pp. 379-387.
‘Cold War in Southern Africa’, Africa Spectrum, 45, 1, (2010), pp. 131-139.
Public Engagement and Media
‘Blame politicians, not Mandela, for South Africa’s unfinished business’, The Conversation (16/7/18)
- This article was syndicated in newspapers and media outlets including The Citizen (SA) and The Star (SA)
‘Why is Steve Biko’s remarkable legacy often overlooked?’, The Conversation (4/9/17) https://theconversation.com/why-is-steve-bikos-remarkable-legacy-often-overlooked-82952
- This articles was syndicated in newspapers and media outlets across the world including the Independent (UK), The Johannesburg Saturday Post (SA), and CNN International
Contributed to the BBC World Histories Magazine article ‘South Africa: can the ‘Rainbow Nation’ find a brighter future?’ in the July 2017 edition.
Contributed to the BBC History Magazine debate article ‘Mandela: The historians view’ in the January 2014 edition
Interviewed live on Nelson Mandela’s legacy for Voice of the Cape 91.3FM (SA) Drive Time on 18 July 2018 and Salaamedia (SA) Breakfast Show on 19 July 2018
Interviewed live on the BBC WM Breakfast Show (Birmingham) following the death of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, 3 April 2018
Interviewed live by Africa Midday for Channel Africa (Johannesburg), on the ‘forgotten legacy of Steve Biko’ 12 September 2017
Participated at the Chatham House Event: ‘South Africa’s 2016 Local Election: Coalitions and Corroded ANC Control’, 12 August 2016
Interviewed live by Singaporean TV Station Channel NewsAsia, 15 December 2013 during Nelson Mandela’s funeral