UCL African Studies Research Centre


Dr Matthew Davies

Lecturer in Global Prosperity

Research Interests

Dr Matthew Davies

Human-environment dynamics in Eastern Africa, climate, resilience, sustainability, historical ecology, agriculture, development, archaeology and heritage, landscape, space and materiality, prosperity metrics, indigenous and alternative knowledges, citizen science, trans-disciplinary approaches. 

Main field areas

Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan

Matthew was formerly a Lecturer in African Studies at UCL but is now lecturer and programme lead at the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) at UCL. He holds a doctorate from the University of Oxford. He was formerly a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Cambridge University and Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi, Kenya. More information can be found via Matthew's IRIS researcher profile below and at the IGP

Current Research Projects

  • Landscape, farming and community engagement in Marakwet, Kenya (Joint PI) (Visit Marakwet Heritage website)
  • Multidisciplinary approaches to African Farming (CoI) (Visit the Pan-African Farming Research Network website) (British Academy International Partnerships Grant)
  • Unravelling complexity: Understanding the land-water-food nexus in Elgeyo-Marakwet Kenya (CoI) (ESRC Nexus Network Grant)
  • Revisiting the Bantu migration Narrative (CoI with Dr Freda M'Mbogori) (Wenner-Gren Grant)

Current Teaching

UCL Institutional Research Information System (IRIS) Profile

Dr Matthew Davies


Institute for Global Prosperity
7th Floor, Maple House, 149 Tottenham Court Road


  • Associate Professor
    UCL Institute for Global Prosperity
    Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL


My research examines a range of issues around prosperity, society and the environment. I am especially interested in the management of landscapes, ecological diversity, climate, and questions of sustainability and resilience. Most of my work has focussed on agricultural systems in Eastern Africa and has examined community practice and knowledge both historically and anthropologically, often employing a perspective known as historical ecology. This work has involved analyses of the spatial, material and temporal dynamics of farming systems, including understandings of soils, crops, irrigation, exchange networks and forests/vegetation. I have also explored histories of failed external 'development' and my work is increasingly drawn towards wider analyses of food systems, agro-ecology, food sovereignty, farmer innovation and intersections with nutrition and health. My work often employs practices of physically mapping the landscape and I work closely with local Citizen Scientists within a trans-disciplinary framework. At the Institute for Global Prosperity I head-up a growing portfolio of research in Kenya with particular focus on the Elgeyo-Marakwet Community. By working with the Elgeyo-Marakwet County Government and a range of UK and international partners, this work aims to have significant policy impacts. 

As part of the wider IGP community, I am also developing work on prosperity metrics and on wider questions around 'Natural Prosperity'. I also undertake a range of work on the deeper archaeology and heritage of Eastern Africa and have researched and written widely on the the archaeology of Eastern African agricultural systems, the Later Iron Age of the region, monuments and stone cairns, historical and contemporary archaeology, and the archaeology of South Sudan.

Award year Qualification Institution
2017 FHEA
ATQ03 - Recognised by the HEA as a Fellow
Academic studies in Higher Education
University College London

I am Lecturer in Global Prosperity at the Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) and Programme Lead for the Institute's teaching programmes, including the MSc Global Prosperity. I conduct research in to questions surrounding prosperity and the environment and head-up programmes of research in Kenya. 

I am trained as both an anthropologist and archaeologist with BA and MSt Degrees from the University of Oxford. I completed my doctorate on the applied archaeology and anthropology of farming systems in northwest Kenya in Oxford in 2009 and then took up the post of Assistant Director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa (BIEA) based in Nairobi, Kenya. From 2010 to 2013 I held a joint fellowship in East African Archaeology with the BIEA and the McDonald Institute, University of Cambridge. From 2014-2015 I was Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the McDonald Institute. Most recently I was Lecturer in African Studies at UCL before moving to IGP.

In addition to acting as Program Lead for teaching at IGP, I am also Chair of the cross-faculty MSc Built Environment Examination Board. I am a Trustee and sit on the Governing Council and Research and Development Committees of the British Institute in Eastern Africa. I am a member of the UCL African Studies Steering Committee. I have been  a senior editor for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History and sit on the editorial board of the Cambridge Archaeological Journal. I have previously been a member of the governing councils of the African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK), the Cambridge African Studies Centre and the African Archaeological Conservation Advisory Committee of the PanAfrican Archaeological Association. I was also previously a Bye-Fellow of Pembroke College Cambridge. 

My research has been funded by the ESRC, AHRC, British Academy, Leverhulme Trust, Newton Trust, Wenner-Gren, British Institute in Eastern Africa, McDonald Institute, Tweedie Exploration Fund, British Institute in Eastern Africa, McDonald Institute, and the UCL Global Engagement Office.  

Outside of academia I have a wonderful wife, son and daughter and I love running, cycling and trekking!