Dr Susan Williams

Contact details

Name:
Dr Susan Williams
Qualifications:
PhD, MA, BA Hons (First Class)
Position/Fellowship type:
Senior Research Fellow
Fellowship term:
to 31-Jul-2018
Institute:
Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Location:
Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study University of London Senate House, Malet Street London WC1E 7HU, UK
Email address:
susanwilliamspa@zoho.com
Website:
http://commonwealth.sas.ac.uk/index.php?id=172

Research Summary and Profile

Research interests:
Civil Rights, Colonies & Colonization, emigration & immigration, Communications, Communities, Classes, Races, Contemporary History, Cultural memory, Gender studies, Globalization & Development, Human rights, International Relations, Metropolitan history, Modern History , Political Institutions
Regions:
Africa, Europe, North America, United Kingdom
Summary of research interests and expertise:

Dr Williams is a historian with a particular interest in the strands of the past that have been neglected or concealed and in the voices that have not been heard, such as those of the colonised. Her research draws heavily on archives and also a range of other sources, including oral testimonies and media. Her research takes her to many different nations.

Areas of expertise include: the history of sub-Saharan Africa; decolonisation; neocolonialism; the Cold War; the Second World War in central Africa; espionage and intelligence; European colonialism; the history of the United Nations; and the history of the Modern Commonwealth.

She is frequently invited to act as a historical advisor to the media (television, radio and print). She also serves as historical consultant to the production of films (see below) and has been advisor to the work of independent and official inquiries (for example see below).
 

 

Project summary relevant to Fellowship:

Dr Williams is currently writing a book entitled Black and Blue: Lumumba and Nkrumah's Alliance in the Cold War.

Her most recent published book (2016) is Spies in the Congo: The Race for the Ore that Built the Atomic Bomb (the sub-title in the USA is America’s Atomic Mission in World War II), which looks at espionage in the Belgian Congo during the Second World War, in the context of global power struggles, the European colonial presence in Africa, and the competition for strategic raw materials. The book draws on newly-released official files and a range of other unique sources. Academic contacts established during the research led to the convening in July 2015 of a major international conference at SAS on nuclear politics and the historical record.

Pathe bought the film rights to Dr Williams’s book Colour Bar (Penguin) about the Founding President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama. Filming took place in Botswana and in the UK in 2015. In November 2016, Pathe released the film under the title A UNITED KINGDOM. The film was directed by Amma Asante and starred David Oyelowo as Seretse Khama and Rosamund Pike as Ruth Khama. Dr Williams served as historical advisor. The film has been premiered in different parts of the world and opened the London Film Festival of 2016; it has received outstanding reviews and widespread acclaim for its moving spotlight on issues relating to British imperialism and the spirit of the movement towards the decolonisation of southern Africa. 

Film rights to Dr Williams's book Who Killed Hammarskjöld? (Hurst/Oxford University Press) have been bought; she serves as historical advisor to the producer.

Dr Williams has continued, since the publication of Who Killed Hammarskjöld?, to serve as a historical advisor on a variety of fronts relating to its themes. The book argues the case for a new inquiry into the plane crash that killed UN SG Dag Hammarskjold. It triggered led in 2012 to the independent Hammarskjöld Commission, chaired by Sir Steven Sedley, to which Dr Williams provided historical expertise. On the recommendation of the Commission’s report in 2013, in December 2014 a Resolution was adopted unanimously by the UN General Assembly, authorising the Secretary General to appoint a UN Panel of Experts to examine the evidence; the Head of the Panel was Chande Othman, Chief Justice of Tanzania. In June 2015 Justice Othman submitted his report to UN SG Ban Ki Moon, who stated that ‘further inquiry or investigation would be necessary to finally establish the facts’. Following the adoption of a further Resolution by the UNGA in December 2016, Justice Othman was selected in 2017 by Secretary General António Guterres as Eminent Person with the mandate to review potential new information, assess its probative value, and determine the scope that any further investigation should take. The Judge will submit his report to the SG before the the start of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly on 12 September 2017.

Dr Williams collaborates on a number of major events and projects with Dr Mandy Banton, also a Senior Fellow at ICWS. These include the organisation of a conference on Freedom of Information in the Commonwealth which led to publication in December 2015 of a special issue of The Round Table, ‘Freedom of Information in the Commonwealth’, edited by them with Professor Elizabeth Shepherd of University College London, and launched by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in New Delhi (December 2015) and at Senate House, London (January 2016). One of a number of conferences and other events organised with Dr Banton, and in collaboration with the United Nations Association Westminster, was the international conference ‘”Sowing the Whirlwind”: nuclear politics and the historical record’ (July 2015).

 

Publication Details

Related publications/articles:

Date Details
29-Mar-2017 Ruth Williams Khama (1923–2002): First Lady of Botswana

Articles

Published in BBC World History.

13-Jan-2017 Congolese uranium and the Cold War

Articles

Published in New African.

01-Jan-2017 A United Kingdom. L'Amore Che Ha Cambiato La Storia, Un'incredibile storia vera, translation of Colour Bar into Italian

Monographs

Published by Newton Compton Editori (Italy); translated by Adriana Altavilla.

20-Dec-2016 Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa, 2nd edn with an additional chapter co-authored with Henning Melber and David Wardrop

Monographs

The additional chapter co-authored with Henning Melber and David Wardrop is entitled: 'Update: Journey for Truth -- from 2011 to 2016'; Hurst (UK) and Oxford University Press (USA)

15-Nov-2016 Colour Bar. A United Kingdom

Monographs

This paperback is the media-tie edition published by Penguin to coincide with the release of the film A United Kingdom, which is based on the book. David Oyelowo, who plays the lead as Seretse Khama, said: 'Reading the book, I realised that I had never seen an African love story of this cinematic scope. It spoke to me as an African, as a man, as a romantic'.

19-Sep-2016 Speaking truth to power: The killing of Dag Hammarskjöld and the cover-up

Articles

This article was co-authored with Henning Melber. It was published online by The Conversation and then republished on many other websites globally.

01-Sep-2016 How a rich uranium mine thrust the Congo into the centre of the Cold War

Articles

This article was published online by The Conversation and then republished on many other websites globally.

24-Aug-2016 The link between uranium from the Congo and Hiroshima: a story of twin tragedies

Articles

This article was published online by The Conversation and then republished on many other websites globally.

18-Aug-2016 Congo: its past, present and link to Hiroshima

Articles

Published by Talking Humanities.

13-Aug-2016 The Female Spy Who Kept Uranium Out of the Nazis’ Hands

Articles

Published by Daily Beast.

09-Aug-2016 Spies in the Congo: America's Atomic Mission in World War II

Monographs

Published by PublicAffairs (USA); this is the American edition of Spies in the Congo: The Race for the Ore That Built the Atomic Bomb

18-Jun-2016 Congolese Uranium, Nazi Germany and the Race to Build the A-Bomb

Articles

 Published in Newsweek.

01-Apr-2016 Spies in the Congo: The Race for the Ore that Built the Atomic Bomb (UK); Spies in the Congo: America's Atomic Mission in World War II (USA)

Monographs

Published by Hurst (UK).

10-Dec-2015 Freedom of Information and the Commonwealth

Edited Book

A Special Issue of The Round Table, co-edited by Williams with Dr Mandy Banton (SAS) and Professor Elizabeth Shepherd (UCL) and with an introduction by all three editors

01-Jul-2015 The Vilification of Wallis Simpson

Chapters

In BBC HIstory Magazine edited volume: The Secret Lives of Royal Women

01-Sep-2014 Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

Monographs

Hardback and Paperback publication by Oxford University Press

01-Jan-2014 Nelson Mandela

Articles

 BBC History Magazine: contribution to 'Ten Photographs that Shook the World'

01-Sep-2013 Lise Namikas: Battleground Africa: Cold War in the Congo, 1960–1965

Review

International Affairs, Volume 89, Issue 5

01-Oct-2012 Freedom of Information and the Commonwealth

Journal articles

with Mandy Banton, The Round Table, Vol 101, No 05, 471-473, October 2012

01-Jan-2011 Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

Monographs

Hurst and Co in the UK; Jacana in South Africa; Columbia University Press in the USA (later Oxford University Press in the USA).

01-Jan-2010 Ways of Seeing Africa

Chapters

Introductory essay to Africa Bibliography 2009, ed. T. Barringer, Edinburgh University Press

01-Jan-2009 The Iconography of Independence: ‘Freedoms at Midnight’

Edited Book

with Robert Holland and T. Barringer. Routledge. Susan wrote the introductory chapter: 'The Midnight Hour'

17-Aug-2006 Colour Bar. The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation

Monographs

Allen Lane/Penguin; paperback 2007. The film rights to Colour Bar were bought by Pathe in order to make the film A UNITED KINGDOM, which is based on the book. 

01-Jan-2006 The Media and the Exile of Seretse Khama: The Bangwato vs the British in Bechuanaland, 1948-1956

Chapters

In Media and the British Empire, ed. Chandrika Kaul, Palgrave Macmillan

01-Jan-2003 Book (authored): The People's King. The True Story of the Abdication

Monographs

Allen Lane/Penguin. Paperback 2004. Published by Palgrave Macmillan in the USA.

01-Jan-2001 The Children of London: Attendance and Welfare at School 1870-1990

Monographs

with Pat Ivin and Caroline Morse. Institute of Education, University of London.

01-Jan-2000 Ladies of Influence. Women of the Elite in Interwar Britain

Monographs

Allen Lane/Penguin, paperback in 2001

01-Jan-2000 Historical Research Methods

Chapters

A chapter in Research Methodology: For What? For Whom? eds Mayall, B, et al. Open University Press

Research Projects & Supervisions

Current PhD topics supervised:

Dates Details
From: 01-Sep-2014
Until:
Investigating Hidden Voices in the Struggle for Independence in Northern Rhodesia, 1958-64, with particular focus on the Cha Cha Cha Uprisig of July-October 1961

 Joint Supervision with Professor Philip Murphy

Relevant Events

Related events:

Date Details
28-Apr-2017 Public talk after screening of film 'A United Kingdom'

 Given at Göta cinema, Gothenburg, Sweden.

27-Apr-2017 Atomic Africa: The hijacked histories of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of Ghana in the 20th century

Public lecture given by invitation at Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden.

24-Nov-2016 Interview about Spies in the Congo on 'Viewpoints with Todd van der Heyden'

 'Weekend Mornings' on CJAD, a Canada-wide radio service.

04-Nov-2016 A United Kingdom: Panel discussion following the screening of the film

 Event in Africa Film Festival (Royal African Society), London, 2016. Panel discussion at Phoenix Cinema between SW (author of Colour Bar), via Skype, Donald Molosi (actor and playwright, Kabelo in A United Kingdom) and Trevor Mwamba (Anglican bishop and friend of Seretse Khama). Chaired by Chibundu Onuzo.

03-Sep-2016 Meet the Writers: interview with Georgina Godwin

 Monocle Radio

23-Aug-2016 Great Lives with Matthew Parris: Dag Hammarskjöld

 BBC Radio 4.

06-Aug-2016 The Missing Link: Peace and Security Surrounding Uranium

Lecture given at South African Museum, Cape Town, invited by the Congolese Civil Society of South Africa.

27-Jun-2016 Belgian Congo's contribution to the atomic bombing of Japan

  Interview on Newsday - BBC Africa, BBC World Service - about Spies in the Congo.On BBC World Service.

22-May-2016 Interview on the death of UNSG Dag Hammarskjöld by Karin Hållsten

 Sveriges Radio (Swedish NPR).

16-Jul-2015 'Sowing the Whirlwind': Nuclear Politics and the Historical Record

Organiser, with Dr Mandy Banton (SAS) and David Wardrop (United Nations Association Westminster Branch), of a major international conference, with a keynote address by Akiko Mikamo, US-Japan Psychological Services. Other sppeakers included Peter Kuznick (American University, Washington), Matthew Jones (LSE), Andreas Persbo (VERTIC), Bruce Kent (CND), Susan Williams (ICWS/SAS), Walt Patterson (Chatham House/University of Sussex), Knox Chitiyo (Chatham House), Joe Lauria (Wall Street Journal). The conference was accompanied by an exhibition from the ICWS library curated by Christine Anderson.

16-Jul-2015 Conference paper: Blank Pages of History: Congolese uranium and the Manhattan Project

 Paper presented at ‘Sowing the Whirlwind’: Nuclear Politics and the Historical Record, a conference held by ICWS/SAS

13-Jun-2015 Speaker in Panel: “Something to Live For, Great Enough to Die For” – Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld Revisited

ACUNS (Academic Council on the United Nations System) at The Hague Institute of Global Justice: The UN at 70

07-May-2015 Portillo's State Secrets, BBC 2 television series on documents held by the UK National Archives

Talking Head in the third episode of this BBC 2 television series, looking at documents held by the UK National Archives

29-Jan-2015 Understanding Namibia - Book Launch

Organiser with Dr Mandy Banton of a seminar to launch a new book by Professor Henning Melber. Speakers were David Simon(Royal Holloway) and Marion Wallace (Africa Curator, The British Library).

23-Oct-2014 Black History Month Book Talk

 This public event took place in Leicester City Centre

08-Sep-2014 Colloquium: The United Nations and End of Empire: Revisiting the Role of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold

 Organiser with Dr Mandy Banton of a colloquium revisiting themes emerging from a conference held three years earlier on Dag Hammarskjold, the UN and the End of Empire. Speakers were John Y Jones (Voksenasen, Oslo), Henning Melber (Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Uppsala), and Edward Mortimer (All Souls College, Oxford).

10-Jul-2014 Why join the Commonwealth?

 
Organiser, with Dr Mandy Banton, of a colloquium to address the question 'Why join the Commonwealth', chaired by Stuart Mole and with distinguished speakers: Knox Chitiyo, Jean-Roger Kaseki, Sir Ronald Sanders, and Arif Zaman,

29-May-2014 The Secret Archive: What is the significance of FCO’s ‘Migrated Archives’ and ‘Special Collections’?

 Organiser, with Dr Mandy Banton, of a high profile one-day conference, with contributions from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), key actors, distinguished scholars from Africa and Europe, the press (Guardian), and the National Security Archive at George Washington University, Washington DC. It was supported by the ASAUK and Hurst Publishers.

15-Apr-2014 Colloquium (New York): Portrait of a Secretary General

 The Century Association of New York: speaker along with Roger Lipsey, biographer, and Andrew Gilmour, Political Director, Executive Office of the Secretary General

24-Feb-2014 Lecture (Oslo): 'Silencing and Lies'

'Silencing and Lies: The death of Hammarskjöld, Congolese uranium, and the annexation of history', lecture given to the Dag Hammarskjöld Programme, Voksenaasen, Oslo, Norway

30-Jan-2014 Congolese Uranium and Nuclear Hegemony

 Seminar presentation to Research Fellows, Institute of Commonwealth Studies: 'Congolese Uranium and Nuclear Hegemony:  Espionage, Deception, and a Void in History'

14-Jan-2014 Canadian radio feature interview: International Effort To Re-Investigate the Mysterious Circumstances of the death of Former UN Secretary General

Hour long in-depth telephone interview with broadcaster Paul Daniel on Canadian radio: Accessible Media Inc. (AMI)

29-Apr-2013 Presentation relating to Inquiries into the Death of UN SG Dag Hammarskjold

 Leiden Law School: Presentation to students, organised by Prof Dr Alex Geert Castermans.

01-Jan-2012 Dag Hammarskjold and the Decolonisation of Africa. Ndola airport, Northern Rhodesia, 17-18 September 1961

Public lecture at the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, 19 January 2012

01-Jan-2012 Channel 4 documentary, Edward VIII: The Plot to Topple A King

Focal Talking Head through the programme, screened first in April 2012 and repeated many times

01-Jan-2012 Secrecy and Disclosure: Freedom of Information and the Commonwealt

Organiser with Dr Mandy Banton of a high profile conference of prominent campaigners, practitioners and historians, June 2012

01-Jan-2011 Dag Hammarskjold and the Decolonisation of Africa: Looking through a telescope at Ndola airport, 17-18 September 1961

Invited lecture to the Royal Society of Arts and Sciences, Gothenburg, Sweden, November 2011

01-Jan-2011 Dag Hammarskjold's death and the Decolonisation of Africa

Public lecture at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, November 2011

01-Jan-2011 Dag Hammarskjöld, the United Nations, and the End of Empire

Convenor with Dr Mandy Banton, of one-day international conference to mark the 50th anniversary of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld's death, 2 September 2001. The conference was organised jointly with the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation, Uppsala, Sweden, and the United Nations Association of the UK, Westminster Branch. The evening before, a welcoming event was hosted by the Swedish Ambassador, Ms Nicola Clase, at her official Residence in London.

01-Jan-2011 Commonwealth Research Seminar Series

Convenor with Dr Shihan DeSilva at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. This seminar series provides an opportunity for Fellows and Students at ICwS to share and discuss with each other their work in progress on subjects relating to the Commonwealth and its concerns. The spirit is informal and friendly and everyone is welcome, including scholars outside the ICwS community.

01-Jan-2011 Media interview

In connection with the publication of her book Who Killed Hammarskjold, Susan was interviewed on Newshour, BBC World Service.

01-Jan-2010 Commonwealth Research Seminar Series

Convenor with Dr Shihan DeSilva at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. This seminar series provides an opportunity for Fellows and Students at ICwS to share and discuss with each other their work in progress on subjects relating to the Commonwealth and its concerns. The spirit is informal and friendly and everyone is welcome, including scholars outside the ICwS community.

01-Jan-2010 The Empire/Commonwealth between the Wars

This lecture was in a series of public lectures on ‘Empire into Commonwealth, 1910-2010’, to mark the joint centenary of the Round Table journal and the Royal Over-Seas League in London.

01-Jan-2010 The Use of Modern Media to Enrich Research on Twentieth Century Africa

This was a presentation at SOAS to SCOLMA, the UK libraries and archives group on Africa.

01-Jan-2009 Growing up in the Modern Commonwealth

The Address to the Annual Dinner of the Cambridge University Commonwealth Society

01-Jan-2009 Links between British rule in Botswana and Kenya in the Process of Decolonisation

Seminar paper given to the Department of Modern History at the University of St Andrews

01-Jan-2009 Commonwealth Research Seminar Series

Convenor with Dr Shihan DeSilva at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. This seminar series provides an opportunity for Fellows and Students at ICwS to share and discuss with each other their work in progress on subjects relating to the Commonwealth and its concerns. The spirit is informal and friendly and everyone is welcome, including scholars outside the ICwS community.

01-Jan-2008 The Thirties in Colour, BBC4

Susan served as an advisor and Talking Head on this television programme on British imperial history.

01-Jan-2007 'Freedoms at Midnight': The Iconography of Independence

Susan was a convenor with Professor Robert Holland of this one day conference, which looked at Independence Day ‘moments’ in several British colonies – India, Pakistan, Ghana, Guyana and Zimbabwe; it also examined the role of the media, of the monarchy, and of independence anniversaries. This focus was complemented by a comparative dimension, looking at how such junctures – amongst the most important in the twentieth century – were conducted in the French Empire.

01-Jan-2006 Abdication. A Very British Coup, BBC4 documentary

Susan's book The People's King was the basis for this Blakeway/BBC documentary, which highlights the role of the Commonwealth and the Dominions. Susan worked as the historical consultant and is the central Talking Head.

01-Jan-2006 Media interviews

In connection with the publication of the book Colour Bar, Susan was interviewed on radio on the BBC World Service; local UK radio stations; several South African radio stations, national and local; and Australian Broadcasting (ABC). On television, she was interviewed on Botswana television (BTV) and South African television (SABC).

01-Jan-2006 When Britain Backed Apartheid: Seretse Khama and the Harragin Inquiry of 1949

This was a seminar paper given to the Department of History at the University of Botswana

01-Jan-2003 Media interviews

In connection with the publication of her book, The People's King, Susan was interviewed on radio on the Today Programme, BBC Radio 4; Women’s Hour, Radio 4; local UK radio stations; Gyles Brandreth Show, LBC; and CBC Radio. On television, she was interviewed on BBC Newsnight; Channel 4 News; Sky News; BBC News 24; Canadian Broadcasting (CBC); and Russian television.

01-Jan-2003 Historical Advisor to the UK National Archives

Susan served in this capacity for the release of the government documents relating to the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936 and its impact on the Commonwealth.

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