Poppy studied History at the University of East Anglia. She then completed an MA at Durham University and stayed at Durham for her AHRC-funded PhD, ‘‘Kenya is no doubt a special case’: British policy towards Kenya, 1960-1980’. From 2015 she taught at the University of Cambridge, and in 2018 she began a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at the University of Exeter on the AHRC-funded project ‘Afterlives of Empire: Thinking Forward through an Imperial Past’ with Professor Andrew Thompson. Poppy was appointed Lecturer in International History at Loughborough in 2020.
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, non-governmental – adapted to this transition.
Her first 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.
She is currently completing a collaborative project examining the growth of NGOs in Africa during the period of decolonisation, working with Professor Andrew Thompson (University of Oxford) and Professor Steve McCorriston (University of Exeter). In her other major research project Poppy examines the role of militaries in post-colonial Africa during the Cold War. In particular, she assesses the impact of foreign military training on emerging independent states, both in terms of individual career progression, and the ethos of the new militaries.
Poppy contributes to several team-taught modules including The Atlantic World: The Americas, Europe and Africa since the 15th Century and The Making and Unmaking of the World Order. Her second-year module is State-building and nation-building in Africa.
- Kenya and Britain after Independence: Beyond Neo-Colonialism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series, 2017) https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783319562759
- ‘Adapting to Independence: The East Africa Association, Post-Colonial Business Networks and Economic Development’, in Véronique Dimier and Sarah Stockwell (eds.), The Business of Development in Post-Colonial Africa (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2021), pp. 69-97 https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9783030511050
- ‘British Defense Engagement and Defense Advisers in Kenya after Independence’, in Greg Kennedy (ed.), Defense Engagement since 1900: Global Lessons in Soft Power (Kansas: Kansas University Press, 2020), pp. 158-182 https://kansaspress.ku.edu/home/new-notable/978-0-7006-2948-0.html
- ‘‘Playing Cold War politics’: The Cold War in Anglo-Kenyan Relations in the 1960s’ Cold War History 18, no. 1 (January 2018), pp. 37-54 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14682745.2017.1387774
- ‘Operation Binnacle: British Plans for Military Intervention against a 1965 Coup in Kenya’, The International History Review 39, no. 5, (December 2016), pp. 791-809 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/07075332.2016.1261917
- ‘Funeral Planning: British involvement in the funeral of President Jomo Kenyatta’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 44, no. 3 (June 2016), pp. 513-532 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03086534.2016.1175737
- ‘The British End of the British Empire by Sarah Stockwell (review)’, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 20, no. 2 (summer 2019) https://muse.jhu.edu/article/730678
- ‘Review of Daniel Brückenhaus, Policing Transnational Protest: Liberal Imperialism and the Surveillance of Anticolonialists in Europe, 1905-1945 (Oxford University Press, 2017, New York)’, Journal of Contemporary European Studies 26, no. 2 (2018), pp. 232-233 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14782804.2018.1460241