Morgan J. Robinson

Morgan J. Robinson


  • History of Science and Technology
  • War, Power, International Affairs


  • Assistant Professor


  • Africa
  • History of Science


  • Graduate Recruiting Coordinator



  • 208 Allen Hall

I am a historian of eastern Africa, interested in (among many topics) language, standardization, time, creativity, and learning. My first book, A Language for the World: The Standardization of Swahili (Ohio University Press, November 2022), examines the long-term, interconnected processes that produced Standard Swahili as it is taught around the world today, zooming in on various moments of conversation, translation, and codification. My next project, preliminarily titled Making the African University: Histories of Inquiry in East Africa, will examine the diverse frameworks of scholarly inquiry that co-mingled in this region across two centuries, ranging from discussions on the baraza (front porches) of Zanzibar, to universities in Kampala and Dar es Salaam. My aim with this project is to explore the notion of research, demonstrating how a region like East Africa—largely ignored in the mainstream literature on the history of science and its concomitant field the history of the humanities, both of which focus fundamentally on questions pertaining to the production of knowledge—can and should be an essential part of the conversation. 

I love teaching African history to both undergraduates and graduate students, as I find that I myself learn more and more with every class! 

Princeton University
PhD in History, May 2018
Dissertation: “An Uncommon Standard: A Social and Intellectual History of Swahili, 1864-1925”

Princeton University
MA in History, September 2013
Fields: Pre-Colonial Africa; Modern Africa; Islam and the Indian Ocean

Yale University
BA in History, May 2008

Mississippi State University, Assistant Professor, Fall 2018 – Present

Princeton University, Pre-doctoral Lecturer, Writing Program, 2017-2018

A Language for the World: The Standardization of Swahili       November 2022, Ohio University Press "New African Histories" Series


Cutting pice and running away: Discipline, education and choice at the UMCA Boys' Industrial House,        Zanzibar, 1901-1905,” Southern African Review of Education, Vol. 19, No. 2 (December 2013): 9-24.

“La Belle Époque from Eastern Africa: An Individual Experience of the ‘Globalizing’ World, 1898-1918,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 13, no.4 (November 2019): 584-600.

“The Idea of the Upelekwa: Constructing a Transcontinental Community in Eastern Africa, 1888-1896,”Journal of the History of Ideas 81, no.1 (January 2020): 85-106.

Binding Words: Student Biographical Narratives and Religious Conversion,” in Klaas van Walraven (ed.), The Individual in African History: The Importance of Biography in African Historical Studies (Brill: Leiden and Boston, 2020).

“History of the Standard Swahili Language,” Forthcoming in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History.

“When a Wonder is Not a Wonder: Swahili, Translation, and the Communication of Knowledge, Forthcoming in Isis: A Journal of the History of Science Society


Select Conferences and Presentations

African Studies Association, Philadelphia, PA, November 2022

Chair and discussant for panel: “Organizing One’s Thoughts: Creating Categories from the Baraza to the OAU”

Internationales Kolloquium zur Gräzistik und Wissensforschung der Antike und ihrer Rezeption

      Christian Albrechts Universität zu Kiel, July 2022

Keynote Address: “Cake Baking and Knowledge Making: Scholarship from Kiel to Kenya and Back Again”

      Vereinigung für Afrikawissenschaften in Deutschland 

       Albert Ludwig University, Freiburg, Germany, June 2022

       Paper: “Cake Baking and Knowledge Making: The Exchange of Ideas During Food Production”

      African Studies Association, [Virtual] November 2020

Chair for panel: “Language Policy in Kenya: Multilingualism as Both Problem and Solution”

      History of Science Society, [November 2020, Postponed]

      Moderator and paper: “The Creativity of Clerkship”

      African Studies Association, Boston, MA, November 2019

Chair and paper: “Synchronicity and Divergence: The Multiple Timelines of Standard Swahili”

      History of Science Society, Utrecht, Netherlands, July 2019

Moderator and paper: “Participation and Demand: Swahili and the Work of the Inter-Territorial Language Committee”

      19th Annual Africa Conference at the University of Texas

at Austin, March 2019

Presenter on panel: “Personal Narratives and Questions of Identity in Africa and its Diaspora”

      History and Politics of Belonging in African Indian Ocean

Societies Workshop

      Martin-Luther University, Halle, Germany, June 2018

Paper: “Belonging Nowhere and Everywhere at Once: Agnes Sapuli and the Cosmopolitanism of the Universities' Mission”




Humboldt Research Fellowship for Postdoctoral Researchers,
Berlin, Germany -- January 2021-June 2022

Strategic Research Initiative Seed Funding, Mississippi State University College of Arts & Sciences, 2019

Bernadotte E. Schmitt Grant for Research in European, African, or Asian History,
American Historical Association, 2019

Graduate Teaching Award, Princeton University, 2018

Quin Morton Teaching Fellowship, Princeton Writing Program, 2017-2018
Graduate Fellow, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies
Dissertation writing grant, 2016-2017

Graduate Research Fellow, Princeton Center for the Study of Religion
Dissertation writing grant, 2016-2017

Research Grant
Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, May 2012


East Africa       

Zanzibar National Archives 

            Tanzania National Archives 


            United Kingdom 

            British National Archives 

            SOAS Special Collections 

            Bodleian Libraries, Commonwealth and African Collections 


            Germany and Switzerland 

            Schleswig-Holsteinische Landesbibliothek 

            Staatsarchiv Hamburg 

            Humboldt Universitätsarchiv 

            Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz 

            Orientabteilung, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin 

            Bundesarchiv, Berlin-Lichterfelde 

            Basler Afrika Bibliographien 



            Swahili, German 


Modern Africa (undergraduate survey)
African Civilizations (undergraduate survey)
Imperialism and Colonialism in Africa (graduate seminar)
Africa in the History of Science (graduate seminar)
Imperialism, Independence, and Post-Colonial Nation Building (graduate seminar)
Histories of Time (graduate seminar)
Comparative Slavery (graduate seminar)
Justice After Empire (freshman seminar)