M.A. Christian Hadorn


Ordinariat Zeitgeschichte

B 112, Unitobler, Länggassstrasse 49
Universität Bern
Historisches Institut
Länggassstrasse 49
3012 Bern
2018 - Doctoral research supported by the SNSF (Doc.CH grant)
2017 - 2017 Doctoral research supported by the Institute of History, University of Bern (start-up financing)
2012 - 2016 MA in History and Slavic Studies, University of Bern
2013 - 2016 Research assistant (tutor), University of Bern, Department for contemporary history in global perspective
2011 - 2014 Indexing of archival collections of the railway company Bern Löschberg Simplon (BLS) AG in the State Archive of Bern (ca. 240 linear meters; project based employments, 30-50%)
2006 - 2011 BA in History and Slavic Studies, University of Bern
  • Colonialism and decolonisation in Africa
  • Historical elite research
  • Biography, collective biography and prosopography

The First Heads of State of 51 African Countries and Their Milieu


Elites in Africa—prime actors and apparent beneficiaries of decolonisation—have so far been examined primarily within overarching theoretical frameworks and highly normative debates. Inextricable both for modernisation and development theorists, for Marxists and for researchers of state-building and democratisation, they have equally become subjects of numerous hagiographic or demonising portrayals in the broader literature. Although biographers of the first African heads of state occasionally refer to contextual aspects of their subject’s career before independence, the broader social environment of these trajectories remains largely unexplored. In many studies, thus, the Founding Fathers of the new African states seem to enter the picture by the sheer forces of destiny and personal virtue; sociologically speaking, they emerge out of thin air. This dissertation aims to address this gap by a collective biography of the first heads of state of 51 African countries before and until independence. This comparative analysis will be complemented by four in-depth case studies which explore the standing of the selected persons within their African social environment through primary sources. Deploying a methodology innovative for both the (sub-)discipline of global history and the field of elite research, this dissertation aims at contributing to a better understanding of the social history of elites under conditions of decolonisation in the 20th century.

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