Skip to main content

Dr Jacob Wiebel

Assistant Professor (Modern African History)

Assistant Professor (Modern African History) in the Department of History+44 (0) 191 33 44357


Biography and Research

Jacob Wiebel is a historian of East Africa and the Horn of Africa in the 19th and 20th century, with a particular focus on Ethiopia. He received his DPhil from the History Faculty at the University of Oxford in 2015, where his research was supervised by Professor David Anderson. He also holds degrees from Oxford's African Studies Centre (MSc) and from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (BA Honours). His work has been supported by grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and from the British Academy. He is currently completing a monograph titled ‘The Red Terror in Ethiopia: revolution, depersonalisation and mass violence’. He is also working on a new project examining the dominant ideologies, ideals and influences that have informed wildlife conservation in post-colonial Africa, primarily as refracted in the history of nature protection in Ethiopia. 

Jacob has published several articles on the history of the Ethiopian revolution and on the atrocities that attended it, including especially the infamous ‘Red Terror’ of the late 1970s. This period of violence had an extraordinary impact on Ethiopian society and governance, owing to its scale, its urban setting and prominent victims, and the very public displays of brutality that characterised it. Jacob’s research examines the origins of the Red Terror both in its continuities and in its radical ruptures with Ethiopia’s imperial past. His work also highlights the extent to which this violence was embedded in international relations and in transnational networks of material and ideological exchange, and charts the contested memorialisation of the Red Terror over the following decades of political change. 

Jacob’s research on the history of wildlife conservation explores the origins and contestation of state-led nature protection in Ethiopia. He is especially interested in the relation - both epistemic and material - between international networks and ideological commitments that shaped conservation policy on the one hand and pre-existing traditional ways of valuing and living with nature on the other. A first publication on these themes, co-authored with Dr Asebe Regassa Debelo (University of Zurich) and analysing the history and political ecology of Nech Sar National Park, is forthcoming.

Two other current projects reflect the wider range of Jacob’s research interests: one examines the effects of the British Abyssinia campaign of 1868 on consequent colonial warfare, looting, and worldmaking (‘Maqdala 1868: a moral reckoning’). A second studies the transnational beginnings of the (Greek) Orthodox Church in East Africa (‘Empire, ecumenism, and the emergence of the Orthodox Church in East Africa: the politics of Christian conversion’). 

Jacob welcomes inquiries from prospective students working on a broad range of topics in East and Northeast African history, especially those that intersect with the questions, methods, and research fields that inform his own work.


Research interests

  • Continuity, change, and violence in revolutionary Ethiopia
  • Ethiopian History
  • Social dynamics and memories of collective violence
  • The history and political ecology of conservation in Africa
  • The history of photography
  • The history of the Eastern Orthodox Church in East Africa