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Dr Sacha Hepburn

  • Overview



    I joined Birkbeck in 2020 as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, following postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute of Historical Research and the University of Warwick. I am a historian of modern Africa with particular interests in labour, gender and age. Through my research and teaching, I seek to understand the past on its own terms and to bring historical perspectives to bear on contemporary global challenges.


    • BA History, Warwick, 2011
    • MA World History, Manchester, 2012
    • DPhil History, Oxford, 2016

    Professional memberships

    • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

    • Member of African Studies Association (UK)

    • Member of British Institute in Eastern Africa

    Honours and awards

    • Early Career Fellowship, The Leverhulme Trust, October 2020
    • GCRF Catalyst Grant, University of Warwick, October 2019
    • Past and Present Fellowship, The Institute of Historical Research, October 2016
    • Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities , The Wolfson Foundation, October 2012
    • Master's Studentship, Arts and Humanities Research Council , October 2011


  • Research


    Research interests

    • Modern African history
    • Gender and sexualities
    • Age and generation
    • Labour and labour movements
    • Environmental history
    • Oral history

    Research overview

    My main research interests are gender, age, and labour in modern African history. My current research falls into three broad areas: gender and work; children’s labour; and food production.

    My research has been particularly concerned with examining how gender has shaped constructions and experiences of work, and with how work has been central to the making and contestation of gender identities. I examined these issues in a project on domestic service in post-colonial southern Africa. My first book, Home Economics: Domestic Service and Gender in Urban Southern Africa (Manchester 2022), and a number of related essays developed out of that project. These publications challenge normative assumptions of labour history that overlook domestic labour and women and child workers, and speak to debates about work and gender that are critical to an understanding of southern Africa’s post-colonial and post-apartheid history. 

    A second area of interest is children’s labour. I seek to trace and historicise the spectrum of labour practices involving African children, and to understand and highlight African children’s roles in local and global economies. This is the focus of my current Leverhulme-funded project, Indispensable Workers: Historicising Child Labour in Africa.

    My current monograph project, Feed the World: African children and the global food system, explores the intertwined histories of child labour, food production and global supply chains. Covering the early twentieth century to the present, it examines how African children produced a wide range of foodstuffs – including cocoa, sugar, and coffee – for export from the continent and consumption around the world. 

    I am committed to using my research to address contemporary global challenges and policy problems. To do this, I work with a number of external partners including the International Labour Organization, US Department of Labor, and trade unions.




    Home Economics: Domestic Service and Gender in Urban Southern Africa (Manchester University Press, 2022).

    Journal Articles

    ‘Colonial Exceptions: The International Labour Organization and Child Labour in British Africa, c. 1919-1940’, co-written with April Jackson, The Journal of Contemporary History. Online first.

    ‘Girlhood, Domestic Service and Perceptions of Child Labour in Zambia, c. 1980-2010’, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, 12:3 (2019), pp. 434-451.

    ‘Service and Solidarity: Domestic Workers, Informal Organising and the Limits of Unionisation in Zambia’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 45:1 (2019), pp. 31-47.

    Book Chapter

    ‘“Bringing a Girl from the Village”: Gender, child migration and domestic service in post-colonial Zambia’, in Marie Rodet and Elodie Razy (eds), Children on the Move in Africa: Past and Present Experienc

    Research clusters and groups

    • Global history and internationalism
    • Difference, race and inequality
    • Mind and body

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Teaching modules

    • The Contemporary World (SSHC412S4)