Susan Williams chronicles imperial legacies with a forensic eye, a historical mind, and a decolonial sensibility for African agency; her findings are as stunning as they are transformative.
Susan Williams is a historian and writer based in London. Her work takes on what might best be described as secret histories: swaths of the past that have been concealed or neglected and for which much of the key documentary evidence has been destroyed, classified, or redacted. Williams descends into these archival labyrinths with assurance and composure, her sharply analytical mind producing comprehensible narratives out of oft-incomprehensible stories of Western imperialist and neo-colonial maneuverings, rapacity, and violence. Her primary focus is the interference of the Central Intelligence Agency in the sovereign affairs of African states. White Malice: The CIA and the Covert Recolonization of Africa (2021), her most recent work, moves between Congo and Ghana in the late 1950s and 1960s in order to describe “America’s role in the deliberate violation of democracy” in these newly independent states. In Spies in the Congo (2016), Williams takes the reader to a unique mine in the Katanga province, Shinkolobwe, whose deposits of uranium ore were commandeered for use in the Manhattan Project. In all of Williams’s work, including the critically-lauded Who Killed Hammarskjöld? The UN, the Cold War, and White Supremacy in Africa (2011), about the suspicious death in Zambia (then a British colony) of United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, and Colour Bar: The Triumph of Seretse Khama and His Nation (2006), about the founding president of Botswana, she displays an impressive blend of academic analysis, archival research, and historical insight. Williams is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Such an unexpected joy! – a rare validation of the struggle to interrogate the global past and to search for truth. I am deeply grateful for this inspiration to push forward with renewed strength and resolve.SUSAN WILLIAMS