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School of History

Dr Reuben Loffman


Senior Lecturer in African History

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7882 8346
Room Number: ArtsTwo 3.32


I joined Queen Mary in 2013. Having taught English for eight months in Tanzania, I studied for my BA in History at Lancaster University. This was followed by two MAs, at SOAS and Durham University respectively.

Afterwards, I completed a PhD at Keele University. Before joining Queen Mary, I taught at Keele University, the University of Manchester, the University of Birmingham, and the University of Bristol.


HST5359 Freedom and Nation: The State in Post-Colonial Africa, 1956-2006
HST5610 Kingdoms, Empires, and Colonisation in African History
HST4622 Global Encounters: Conquest and Culture in World History
HST4621 History in Practice

Undergraduate Teaching


Research Interests:

My research principally focuses on the work of foreign Christian missionaries in Central Africa. Although I am interested in all aspects of missionary history, my main research focus is on the intersection between Christianity and the construction of statehood; colonial and beyond.  

My first book, Church, State, and Colonialism in Southeastern Congo, 1890-1962, focused on Catholic missionaries in what is now the Tanganyika province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It argued that missionaries were not a seamless part of a colonial triumvirate in Congo but in fact had a competitively collaborative relationship with Belgian rulers that saw them disagree fervently with the latter on occasion. For more information, the book has been reviewed here, here, and here. This research speaks not only to debates within mission history but also to wider public concerns about the role of the Church in empires. As such, in 2022, I was called on to give a testimony before the Special Committee on the Colonial Past convened by the Belgian parliament on the historic role of the Church in Belgian colonial history. More recently, I have become interested in American Protestants and the ways in which they worked in the centre of the DRC. My work has benefitted from a Presbyterian Historical Fellowship and I explain more about this research here. I am also generally very enthusiastic about teaching the modern history of the DRC and convene a two-semester module in which we examine it in some detail.          

Aside from my work on mission history, I have a keen interest in the history of the political economy – broadly defined – of African states. I have published on the history of the rubber industry in Africa as well as on development projects, most notably the Nord Shaba Project. I have also published on contemporary Congolese politics in a number of articles in The Conversation as well as in various news outlets such as NBC. This strand of my research is correspondingly nourished by my teaching of the module ‘Freedom and Nation’ in which those who take the module and I discuss the history of the African state from the mid-twentieth century to the twenty-first. On this module, I encourage my fellow historians to write blogs about present-day topics informed by their understanding of the past. As part of my research into the political economy of African states, I have also developed an interest in the way in which architecture both reflects and determines political relationships in the various states that have occupied the Congo River Basin and have published a chapter on this topic that is freely available here.    




Chapters in Books

Review Article

(2008) ‘A History of Violence: The State, Youth, and Memory in Contemporary Africa.’ African Affairs, 108: 430, pp.125-133.

I have also reviewed books for African Affairs, The Journal of Modern African Studiesthe Journal of Southern African StudiesAfricaThe Times Literary Supplement and H-Net France. I have also contributed to The Conversation.


I  welcome applications from candidates wishing to undertake doctoral research  on any aspect of sub-Saharan African history from 1850s, including:  

  • political authority and trade in the late pre-colonial period;
  • the negotiation of power relations under indirect rule;
  • the politics of decolonisation;
  • the history of local, national, and international development;
  • violence and warfare in Central Africa from 1870s to the present


Past PhD Students: 

Joe MacDonald - 'The Medicine Murder Panic: Colonial Weakness and the Emergence of Nationalism in Basutoland, 1945-1960.'


Public Engagement

My public engagement follows three general strands, namely: explaining my research to external stakeholders, providing commentary on the politics of the DRC, and contributing to institutions whose mission(s) dovetail with my commitment to the study of history and/or Africa.  

In terms of the first strand of my public engagement, I typically explain my research on podcasts readily available to the general public, such as The Know Show Podcast, the Ecclesiastical History Society Podcast, the AskHistorians podcast, or the Mile End Institute Podcast. Sometimes my work is featured on ‘YouTube’ channels, such as The Conversation. I also use Twitter to discuss my research when I can. 

The second strand of my public engagement typically peaks when there are elections in the Congo. For example, I talked about the 2018 DRC elections with, Al-Jazeera, The Wall Street Journal, and The Conversation. Sometimes I am asked to comment on matters unrelated to elections, such as the return of the tooth of Patrice Lumumba, the first Congolese Prime Minister, to his family. And, along with a number of other historians, I published an essay in Le Soir arguing that there is no lack of historical consensus on the heinous atrocities committed by the Belgian King Leopold II.       

Thirdly, I am currently on the Advisory Council of the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) and I was a project officer for African Studies Association of the United Kingdom (ASAUK). As part of my work with the IHR, I contributed to the promotion of the Paul and Adelaide Joseph Archive. And, as project officer for the ASAUK, I helped to facilitate a number of writing workshops in Africa. These were occasions in which scholars based on the continent could meet with editors of journals with international and continental reach to try to promote their work in such publications.  

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