Rhiannon Stephens

Rhiannon Stephens

Research Interest


Ph.D.  - Northwestern University, 2007
M.A. - Northwestern University, 2002
B.A. Hons. - School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2000


Interests and Research

Rhiannon Stephens, Associate Professor, specializes in the history of precolonial and early colonial East Africa from the late first millennium CE through the twentieth century. Her first monograph, A History of African Motherhood: The Case of Uganda, 700-1900 (Cambridge University Press, 2013), traced the history of motherhood as a social institution and an ideology across over a millennium of Ugandan political, economic and social change. She is currently working a history of poverty and wealth as economic and social concepts in eastern Uganda over the past two thousand years. She is the co-editor of Doing Conceptual History in Africa (Berghahn Books, 2018), which critically examines what it means to write conceptual history on the continent. Her work has been published in the American Historical Review, the Journal of African HistoryPast and Present, and African Studies Review.



  • C1020 African Civilization (Global Core)
  • UN2761 Gender and Sexuality in African History (Global Core)
  • UN2764 East African History (Global Core)
  • UN3012 Uganda in the Mission Archive
  • UN3769 History of Health and Healing in Africa
  • UN3789 Histories of Poverty in Africa
  • GR8760 Precolonial African Historiography
  • GR8770 Household and Family in African History



  • Andrew W. Mellon Foundation New Directions Fellowship, 2020-2022

  • Columbia Distinguished Faculty Award, 2020

  • Heyman Center Fellowship, The Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University, 2016-17
  • Honorable Mention, African Studies Association Bethwell A. Ogot Prize for the best book on East African Studies, for A History of African Motherhood: The Case of Uganda, 700-1900, 2014
  • MacDonald Summer Fellow, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Columbia University
  • Past and Present Society Post-doctoral research fellowship, 2008-09
  • Presidential Society of Fellows, Northwestern University, 2005-07



  • Faculty Fellow, Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy, Columbia University
  • Member, African Studies Association
  • Member, American Historical Association
  • Member, British Institute in Eastern Africa
  • Institute of African Studies, Columbia University



A History of African Motherhood: The Case of Uganda, 700-1900, (Cambridge University Press, 2013)

Doing Conceptual History in Africa, (Berghan Books, 2018), co-edited with Axel Fleisch

Scholarly Articles

"Poverty's Pasts: A Case for Longue Durée Studies," Journal of African History 59, no. 3 (2018): 399-409

“Bereft, Selfish, and Hungry: Greater Luhyia Concepts of the Poor in Precolonial East Africa,” American Historical Review 123, no. 3 (2018): 789-816.

"'Whether They Promised Each Other Some Thing Is Difficult to Work Out': The Complicated History of Marriage in Uganda," African Studies Review 59, no. 1 (2016): 127-153.

“The Great Lakes States of Eastern Africa,” in Oxford Bibliographies in African Studies, ed. Thomas Spear (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

"Birthing Wealth? Motherhood and Poverty in East-Central Uganda, 700-1900," Past and Present 215 (May 2012): 235-268.

"Introduction: New Themes in Ugandan History," Journal of Eastern African Studies 6, no. 3 (2012): 487-489.

"Lineage and Society in Precolonial Uganda," Journal of African History 50, 2 (2009): 203-21.

“East Africa, 1500-1900,” in Encyclopedia of Women in World History, ed. Bonnie G. Smith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 122-126.