Join our mailing list:

As part of the ‘Postgrads from the Edge’ series, University of Edinburgh PhD student Tom Cunningham has written a great post on perhaps the university’s best-known African graduate, Julius Nyerere:

Julius Nyerere on the cover of Time Magazine, 13 March 1964

Julius Nyerere on the cover of Time Magazine, 13 March 1964

As President of Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) he led Tanganyika to Independence in 1961 and served as President of the Republic of Tanzania (the name given to the territory after the 1964 union between Tanganyika and Zanzibar) until his retirement in 1985. He is remembered for his elaboration of “African Socialism,” in particular his concept of ujamaa (loosely, “family” or “socialism”) which informed his plans for the social and economic development of Tanzania. Although the success of his attempt to introduce African Socialism in Tanzania might be questioned, and his methods of implementing his plans are certainly not without controversy, many consider Julius Nyerere one of Edinburgh’s most remarkable alumni. It is often said that he is one of the few African leaders to have voluntarily relinquished power. It is an important claim though it is relative and, depending on context, might insidiously work to embed the assumption that “all African leaders are corrupt.” It does, however, allude to qualities that make Nyerere an admirable historical figure, such as his “modesty” and “humility” – traits that were regularly ascribed to him in contemporary descriptions – as well as his political skill. In addition to this, descriptions of him recall his great intellect, immense work ethic, and stirring charisma.


Fun fact: another of the university’s most distinguished graduates is our very own Alex Chetkovich. Alex’s dissertation supervisor during his time at Edinburgh, Dr. Tom Molony, features heavily in the post, having written one of the leading biographies of Nyerere. You can read the whole thing here.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *