Nic Cheeseman

Nic Cheeseman

(M.Phil (Oxon), BA (Oxon))

Associate Professor of African Politics, Jesus College
Comparative Politics and Government
01865 613 904
Jesus College

Prof Cheeseman is Associate Professor in African Politics and a former Director of the African Studies Centre. He works in the field of comparative politics with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and processes of democratization. Nic is also the joint editor of African Affairs, the No. 1 journal in African Studies with the highest 5-year impact factor in all of area studies. In January 2016, he became the founding Editor of the Oxford Dictionary of African Politics and the founding Editor in Chief of the Oxford Encyclopaedia for African Politics, both published by Oxford University Press. Prof Cheeseman also writes a regular column for the Sunday Nation, East Africa’s most widely read newspaper, and is the founder of Democracy in Africa, a website dedicated to fostering an online community of people that are interested in, and care about, the state of democracy in Africa.


Prof Cheeseman works in the field of comparative politics with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa and processes of democratization. His research addresses a range of questions such as whether populism is an effective strategy of political mobilization in Africa, how paying tax changes citizens’ attitudes towards democracy and corruption, and the conditions under which ruling parties lose power.

In 2008, Nic’s doctoral thesis, "The Rise and Fall of Civil Authoritarianism in Africa", won the Arthur McDougall Dissertation Prize of the Political Studies Association of the UK for the best dissertation on elections, electoral systems or representation. His last article, "Rethinking the Presidentialism Debate: Conceptualizing Coalitional Politics in Cross-regional Perspective" (co-authored with Paul Chaisty and Tim Power) won the GIGA prize for the best paper published in Comparative Area Studies (2013-14).

In addition to a number of other articles and book chapters, Prof Cheeseman has also published two co-edited collections: Our Turn To Eat (2010), which covers the politics of Kenya since independence, and The Handbook of African Politics (2013). His first monograph, Democracy in Africa: Successes, Failures and the Struggle for Political Reform was published in March 2015 by Cambridge University Press. A second monograph, How to Rig An Election, is currently under contract with Yale, while a further edited collection on the importance of formal political institutions in Africa is under contract at CUP.

Nic has just returned from research leave as part of a four year project that looked at the dynamics of executive-legislative relations in Africa, Latin America and the former Soviet Union. The research was funded by a grant of £700,000 by the Economic and Social Research Council (Grant Reference: RES-062-23-2892). A co-authored book [with Paul Chaisty and Tim Power] based on the project’s findings is currently being finalised and is under contract at Oxford University Press.

Prof Cheeseman also holds two other ESRC grants, and is currently engaged in a major research project on the impact of elections in Africa with Gabrielle Lynch of Warwick University and Justin Willis of Durham University. This research uses a mixed methods approach with surveys, archive research, interviews, and fieldwork in Kenya, Ghana and Uganda. He is also part of an international team of researchers investigating the relationship between Media, Conflict and Democratization, supported by the funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research.

Selected Posts, Memberships and Associations

  • Editor in Chief, Oxford Encyclopaedia of African Politics, Oxford University Press (2016-).
  • Editor in Chief, Oxford Dictionary of African Politics, Oxford University Press (2016-).
  • Advisor and Consultant, African Progress Panel (2011-).
  • Advisory Board Member, UNESCO Chair on Communication Research and Africa (2012-).
  • Editorial Board Member, Zambia Social Science Journal (2012-).
  • Joint Editor, African Affairs, The Journal of the Royal African Society (2012-).
  • Research Associate, Centre for the Study of African Economics, University of Oxford (2008-).
  • Executive Committee Member, Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellowship scheme (2011-).
  • Editorial Board Member and Book Reviews Editor, Journal of Modern African Studies (2010-2012).
  • African Politics
  • Comparative Democratization
  • Power-sharing arrangements
  • Populism and opposition politics
  • Parties, patronage and political mobilization
  • Tax and the social contract
  • The relationship between democracy and conflict
  • Political participation in the one-party state
  • Ethnicity and political behaviour
  • The politics of Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, and Zambia
Civil wars Democratic theory Democracy and Democratisation Elections Political Parties Social movements Violence security and conflict

Prof Cheeseman teaches classes on topics including the state, development, and electoral politics for the Comparative Government MPhil. He also contributes teaching to the M.Phil optional paper Politics in Africa and supervises a wide range of D.Phil, M.Phil, and MSc students, most of whom are drawn from the discipline of political science.

In addition, Prof Cheeseman teaches extensively on the MSc in African Studies. He is heavily involved with the teaching of the Core Course on Themes in History and the Social Science in Africa, with a specific focus on the State in Africa. Nic also teaches on quantitative and comparative methods as part of the Core Course on Methodology, Ethics and Research, and offers an Optional Paper on Democratization and Multi-Party Politics in Africa.

Number of DPhil supervisions completed: 4


  1. My Duty: The Life and Legacy of Bram Fischer (in preparation, co-edited with Y. Malan, proposed 2018)
  2. Democratization in Africa: The Import of Institutions, Cambridge University Press (sole editor, under contract, scheduled 2017)
  3. The African Affairs reader: Key Texts in Politics, Development, and International Relations, Oxford University Press (co-edited with L. Whitfield, under contract, scheduled for 2017)
  4. Coalitional Presidentialism in Comparative Perspective, Oxford University Press (co-authored with P. Chaisty and T. Power, under contract, scheduled for 2017)
  5. Authoritarian Africa: The Drivers of State Repression, Oxford University Press (textbook, under contract, scheduled for 2017)
  1. How to Rig An Election, Yale University Press (co-authored with B. Klaas, under contract, scheduled for end 2017)
  2. African Politics: Major Works, Routledge (sole editor, manuscript submitted, due 2016)
  3. Democracy in Africa, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Click for book
  4. Politics Meets Parties: The Emergence of Programmatic Political Parties, International IDEA, 2013 (policy book with H. Kitschelt, J. Pablo Luna, D. Paget, R. Rosenblatt, K. Sample, S. Toro, J. Valladares Molleda, S. van der Staak, Y. Wang). Click for book
  5. Handbook of African Politics, Oxford: Routledge, 2013 (co-edited with D. Anderson and A. Scheibler). Click for book
  6. Our Turn to Eat: Politics in Kenya Since 1950, LIT Verlag, 2010 (co-edited with D. Branch and L. Gardner). Click for book

Journal articles and book chapters

  1.   ‘Taxing Nigeria: Government Performance, Political Knowledge, and the Evolution of a Social Contract in Lagos’, under review at World Development [co-authored with Brian Klaas]
  2.   ‘“A Valid Electoral Exercise”: International Observation in Uganda’s 1980 Elections’, R&R at Comparative Studies in Sociology and History [co-authored with Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis]
  3. ‘Ethnicity and Development’ in The Politics of Development edited by Nicolas van de Walle and Carol Lancaster, Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming, 2016).
  4.   ‘Patrons, Parties, Political Linkage and the Birth of Competitive-Authoritarianism in Africa’, African Studies Review [forthcoming, scheduled for late 2016]
  5. ‘Decentralization in Kenya: The Governance of Governors’, Journal of Modern African Studies (2016) 54, 1, pp. 1-35 [with Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis] Click for article
  6. ‘No Bourgeoisie, No Democracy? The Political Attitudes of the Kenyan Middle Class’, Journal of International Development (2015), 27, 5, pp. 647-664. Click for article
  7. ‘Democracy and its discontents: Understanding Kenya’s 2013 elections’, Journal of Eastern African Studies 8, 1 (2014) 2-24 [with Gabrielle Lynch and Justin Willis]. Click for article
  8. ‘Rethinking the “Presidentialism Debate”: Conceptualizing Coalitional Politics in Cross-Regional Perspective’, Democratization 21, 1 (2014), 72-94 [with Paul Chaisty and Tim Power] **winner of the 2013 GIGA CAS prize for the best article in comparative area studies** Click for article
  9. ‘Ethnopopulism in Africa: Opposition Mobilization in Diverse and Unequal Societies’, Democratization 22, 1 (2013), 22-50 [with Miles Larmer]. Click for article
  1. ‘Is there a populist threat in Zambia’, in Zambia: Policy Options edited by C. Adam and P. Collier, Oxford: Oxford University Press (forthcoming 2013) [with Robert Ford and Neo Simutani]. Click for article
  2. ‘Kenya in 2012’, in Mehler, Melber, and Walraven ed.,Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2012(forthcoming, 2013).
  3. ‘Kenya in 2011’ in Mehler, Melber, and Walraven ed., Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2011 (Leiden, Brill, 2012). Click for book
  4. ‘An Introduction to African Politics’ in The Handbook of African Politics, Oxford: Routledge (forthcoming February 2013) [co-authored with David Anderson]. Click for book
  5. ‘Nationalism, one-party states, and military rule’ in The Handbook of African Politics, Oxford: Routledge (forthcoming February 2013) [with David Anderson]. Click for book
  6. ‘Kenya in 2010’ in Mehler, Melber, and Walraven ed.,Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2010 (Leiden, Brill, 2011). Click for book
  7. ‘The Internal Dynamics of Power-sharing in Africa’, Democratization 18 (2) pp. 336-365 (2011). Click for article
  8. ‘African Elections as Vehicles for Change’, Journal of Democracy 21 (4) pp. 139-153 (2010). Click for article
  9. ‘Kenya in 2009’ in Mehler, Melber, and Walraven ed.,Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2009(Leiden, Brill, 2010).Click for book
  10. ‘Our Turn To Eat: Politics in Kenya Since 1950’, Lit Verlag, Berlin (2010) [co-edited with Daniel Branch and Leigh Gardener]. Click for book
  11. ‘Power Sharing in Comparative Perspective: The Origins and Consequences of Unity Government in Africa’, Journal of Modern African Studies 48: 203-229 (2010) [with Miles Tendi]. Click for article
  12. ‘Parties, Platforms, and Political Mobilization: The Zambian Presidential Election of 2008’, African Affairs 109 (434) 51-76 (2010) [with Marja Hinfelaar]. Click for article
  13. ‘Kenya in 2008’ in Mehler, Melber, and Walraven ed., Africa Yearbook: Politics, Economy and Society South of the Sahara in 2008 (Leiden, Brill, 2009). Click for book
  14. ‘Democratization, Sequencing, and State Failure in Africa: Lessons from Kenya’, African Affairs, 108 (430) 1-26 (2009) [with Daniel Branch]. Click for article
  15. ‘Kenya Since 2002: The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same’, in Whitfield and Mustapha ed., Turning Points in African Democracy (London, James Currey, 2009). Click for book
  16. ‘The 2007 Kenyan Election: An Introduction’, Journal of Eastern African Studies, 2 (2) 166-184 (2008). Click for article 
  17. ‘Ethnicity As A Political Cleavage’, Afrobarometer Working Paper No. 83 (2007) [with Robert Ford]. Click for working paper
  18. ‘The Politics of Control in Kenya: Understanding the Bureaucratic-Executive State’, Review of African Political Economy, 33,107: 11-31 (2006) [with Daniel Branch]. Click for article
  19. ‘Using Opinion Polls to Evaluate Kenyan Politics’, African Affairs (2005) 415, 104: 325-36 [with Daniel Branch]. Click for article
  20. ‘Political Linkage in the Kenya Post-Colony: Assessing the Structure of Colonial Legacy’, Africa Today, (51) 1 (2006). Click for article

For blog posts, podcasts and other material see

Prof Cheeseman has frequently appeared on Radio and TV to discuss African Politics, including RFI Radio (French World Service), BBC Radio 4 (Material World, The Today Programme, The World At One), the BBC World Service, BBC News 24, ITV Meridian News, and the One Show on BBC 1. He has written pieces that have appeared in the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Newsweek and the Daily Nation (Kenya). Nic’s work has also been cited in a number of different publications including The Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist.

He is particularly happy to talk about:

  • Elections in Africa
  • Electoral violence
  • Democratization
  • Term-limits and political crises
  • Kenya Politics
  • Zambian Politics
  • Ugandan Politics
  • Nigerian Politics
  • Populism
  • Taxation      

Selected Publications