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Caroline Elkins    

Professor of African Studies at Harvard University & Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of "Imperial Reckoning"

Caroline Elkins is the Thomas Henry Carroll/Ford Foundation Professor of Business Administration in the Business, Government and International Economy unit at HBS. She is also Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University, an Affiliated Professor at Harvard Law School, and the founding director of Harvard’s Center for African Studies. She received her A.B., summa cum laude, from Princeton University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

At HBS, Elkins has been course head for FIELD Global Immersion, created the SIP course, “Africa Rising: Understanding Business, Entrepreneurship, and the Complexities of a Continent,” and taught courses on interpersonal skills and inclusive leadership. She has written numerous case studies focusing on emerging markets and Africa.

Elkins’ research focuses on empire, violence, liberalism, and insecurity, with a particular focus on Africa and various regions of the former British Empire including Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Her first book, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain’s Gulag in Kenya (Henry Holt, 2005) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2006. It was also one of The Economist’s Best Books for 2005, an Editor’s Choice for The New York Times, a Waterstone’s Best Writer for 2005, and a finalist for the Lionel Gelber Prize for nonfiction. She and her research were the subjects of a BBC documentary titled “Kenya: White Terror,” which won the International Red Cross Award at the Monte Carlos Film Festival. Her research also served as the basis for the historic Mau Mau reparations case, for which she was expert witness, in the High Court of London. After four years of litigation, the British government settled the case in June 2013 with an official apology and a large, cash settlement.

In 2022, Elkins published Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire (Knopf). The book was widely reviewed around the world, receiving three, starred pre-publication reviews and going on to be selected as one of The New York Times Top 100 books for 2022. It was also a finalist for the Baillie Gifford Award, the UK’s most prestigious nonfiction book prize, and a Best Book of 2022 by the BBC, History Today, The New Statesman, and Waterstones.

Elkins and her work have been profiled in newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time Magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Le Monde, The Guardian, and The Boston Globe, as well on various television and radio programs including CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC World News, NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered, and BBC World Radio One and Radio Four. She has been a contributor to The New York Times, Foreign Affairs, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Washington Post, and The New Republic.

At Harvard, Elkins was selected twice as a Walter Channing Cabot Fellow, elected as a member of the Faculty Council for Arts and Sciences, and inducted as an honorary member of the University’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter. She has also held numerous other fellowships and awards including those from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Scholars (Burkhardt Fellowship), Fulbright, the Social Science Research Council, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2003-04; 2012-13), the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, the Carr Center for Human Rights, and the Rockefeller Center in Bellagio, Italy.

Speech Topics

The Curse of Genocide

Human Rights in a Global World

The Dark Side of Democracy: Empire in the Twentieth Century

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