Stephen Ellis (historian)

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Stephen Ellis as he took up the Desmond Tutu Chair at the Vrije Universiteit (Free University), Amsterdam in 2010

Stephen Ellis (13 June 1953, Nottingham – 29 July 2015, Amsterdam) was a British historian, africanist and human rights activist.[1] His research was mainly concerned with contemporary Africa, such as developments in Liberia, Nigeria, Madagascar, South Africa, Sierra Leone and the global impact of Africa.[2][3][4][5][6]


Ellis studied modern history at the University of Oxford and obtained his doctorate there in 1981. From 1979 through 1980 he was a lecturer with the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar. From 1982 to 1986 he was Head of the department for Africa at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International in London and later Editor-in-chief of the newsletter Africa Confidential. From 1991 to 1994 Ellis was at first Secretary General and later Director of the Afrika-Studiecentrum (African Studies Centre) in Leiden. After an assignment for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs - for the Global Coalition for Africa, which resulted in his book ‘Africa Now’ (1996) - he returned to the Afrika-Studiecentrum as a senior researcher. Furthermore, he became a Desmond Tutu Professor of Youth, Sport and Reconciliation with the Vrije Universiteit (Free University) in Amsterdam. Ellis was Africa Program Director at the International Crisis Group from 2003 to 2004. He was a member of various editorial boards, for instance of the journal African Affairs. His book External Mission: The ANC in Exile 1960–1990 was awarded the Recht Malan Prize for Non-Fiction in South Africa.[7]

Ellis was married to the africanist Gerrie ter Haar. In 2012 he was diagnosed with leukemia, which led to his death in July 2015. In 2019 Ellis' professional archive was donated to the African Studies Centre in Leiden.

Selected publications[edit]

  • Rising of the Red Shawls (1985, Cambridge University Press)
  • (in French) Un Complot à Madagascar (1990, Karthala)
  • with Tsepo Sechaba: Comrades against apartheid: The ANC and the South African Communist Party in exile (1992, James Currey, London)
  • (ed.) Africa Now. People policies and institutions (1996). ISBN 978-0435089870
  • with Jean-François Bayart, Béatrice Hibou: The Criminalization of the State in Africa (1999, James Currey, London)
  • The Mask of Anarchy: the destruction of Liberia and the religious dimension of an African civil war (2001, Hurst, London, ISBN 9780814722381)
  • with Gerrie ter Haar: Worlds of power: Religious thought and political practice in Africa (2004, Oxford University Press, New York)
  • West Africa's international drug trade (2009, journal article African Affairs 108 (431) 171 - 196)
  • Season of rains: Africa in the world (2012), with a foreword by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. University of Chicago Press.
  • External Mission: The ANC in Exile 1960–1990 (2012), London: Hurst & Company, 288 pp. ISBN 978 1 84904 262 8
  • This Present Darkness: A History of Nigerian Organised Crime (2016), Hurst Publishers (London). ISBN 9781849046305


  1. ^ ter Haar, Gerrie: Stephen Ellis: his life and work, p. 6-30, in Akinyele, Rufus and Dietz, Ton, red.: Crime, law and society in Nigeria. Essays in honour of Stephen Ellis, Brill, Leiden, Boston, 2019. Afrika-Studiecentrum series 37.
  2. ^ Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam In memoriam Stephen Ellis
  3. ^ [1] Trevor Grundy: Stephen Ellis was condemned by the ANC for revealing Nelson Mandela communist affiliations, 18 August 2015
  4. ^ Crisis Group: In memoriam Stephen Ellis, 30 July 2015
  5. ^ Ton Dietz: In memoriam Stephen Ellis, 29 July 2015
  6. ^ In memoriam: Stephen Ellis, 29 July 2015
  7. ^ "Recht Malan Prize | Awards". LibraryThing. Retrieved 2017-11-06.

External links[edit]