Poppy joined Loughborough in 2020. Prior to that, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Exeter on the AHRC-funded project ‘Afterlives of Empire: Thinking Forward through an Imperial Past’, led by Professor Andrew Thompson. Before that she taught at the University of Cambridge. She completed her PhD at Durham University in 2015.

Poppy is a historian of decolonisation and post-colonial relationships between Britain and Africa. She is interested in the transition from colonial to independent states in the 1960s and how organisations and individuals in a variety of fields – military, political, economic, humanitarian – adapted to this transition. 

Her book focused on the political relationship between Britain and Kenya in the decades after independence, the 1960s to 1980s. She examined how political elites in both countries re-thought their relationships after Kenyan independence, and how the different forms of diplomacy practiced by the two states shaped the foreign policies they followed. She argued that British diplomats encouraged personalised rather than bureaucratic policy-making in Kenya. At the same time, they naturalised this kind of personalised politics, often termed neo-patrimonialism, as something inherently ‘African’. Poppy has published on various aspects of Anglo-Kenyan relations in a number of journals.

Her current research is focused on two areas. Firstly, military decolonisation and Africanisation in East Africa. Here, Poppy explores the precarious transformation of colonial armies intended to secure imperial rule to independent African militaries.

Secondly, the history of humanitarianism and NGOs in Africa during the period of decolonisation. This includes work on ‘The Big Survey’ of NGOs carried out in the 1960s, and research into the Mau Mau Emergency.

Poppy teaches African and international history on a variety of modules. Poppy’s Part B module introduces students to African history from the mid-nineteenth century, spanning the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial eras.

Currently Supervising

Ellie Strangeways, ‘Anarchists against empire: British anarchism in the struggle against colonialism (1945-1970)’