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William FitzSimons


William FitzSimons is a doctoral candidate studying African history. His research utilizes a broad range of sources - primarily historical linguistics, but also oral traditions, archival documents, paleoclimatic data, archaeology, and anthropological genetics – to reconstruct the historical development of decentralized political institutions in eastern Africa over the past two millennia. His current project examines how the linguistic ancestors of Ateker-speaking populations living in today’s Uganda-Kenya-Ethiopia-South Sudan borderlands responded to historical climate change by innovating geographically-dispersed decentralized governance structures, migrating into new regions, and incorporating immigrant communities through initiations into age-sets. Key analytical themes his research touches upon include: pastoralism and nomadism, gender and social reproduction, precolonial warfare, ritual and sacrifice, prophecy and divination, and the anthropology of aging.

William earned his BA in history and philosophy at Union College, NY and Master’s degrees in African history from Tufts University, MA and from Northwestern University. While at Northwestern, he has received numerous grants for his research in East Africa, including the Social Science Research Council’s International Dissertation Research Fellowship, and contributed to multiple interdisciplinary panels, including at the African Studies Association.


  • “Sizing up the Small Wars of African Empire: An Assessment of the Contexts and Legacies of Nineteenth-Century Colonial Warfare,” Journal of African Military History, 2, 1 (2018), 63-78.
  • “Warfare, Competition, and the Durability of ‘Political Smallness’ in Nineteenth-Century Busoga,” Journal of African History, 59, 1 (2018), 45-67.
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