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Emma Orchardson

I’m a third-year PhD candidate researching Malawi’s experience of the global Cold War. My project is funded by the Wolfson Foundation and jointly supervised by David Anderson and Daniel Branch.


​Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s regime — which lasted 30 years and ended not long after 1989 — not only coincided with the Cold War but was, arguably, completely defined by it. However, while scholarship on the region continues to grow, Malawi remains a brief footnote in southern Africa’s Cold War story, usually only mentioned as an aside during discussion of another country’s foreign policy.

My project sits within this gap and looks to understand Malawi’s positioning during the global Cold War. I am interested in exploring Banda’s role as a ‘cold warrior’; tracing Malawi’s shifting relationships with other African states and Western allies; exploring the influence that exiled political opponents had on the country’s foreign policy development; and examining how these different actors influenced the Banda regime and shaped local experiences of the Cold War.

Drawing together these strands, I hope to demonstrate that actors in Malawi actively sought engagement in the politics of the Cold War for varied and individual reasons, with actors such as Banda exercising greater agency over the country’s trajectory than is commonly thought. By focusing away from superpower intervention and foregrounding Malawi’s experience, I also hope to illustrate the impact that the actions and agendas of smaller states had on shaping regional conflicts during this period.

Research Interests

Malawi; the global Cold War; southern Africa; authoritarianism; exiles and dissent


PhD in History, University of Warwick, 2021-2024

MPhil in African Studies, University of Cambridge, 2016-2017

BA (Hons) in French and History, University of York, 2012-2016

Papers and Publications

‘A take-over by Malawi: Tentative designs on northern Mozambique’ (European Conference on African Studies, May 2023)

‘The hawks and the doves: Kamuzu Banda’s anti-communism, 1964-68’ (International Graduate Student Conference on the Cold War, May 2023)

The international origins of the Malawi Young Pioneers’ (Global History and Culture Centre blog, University of Warwick)

‘Our friends in Zambia and Tanzania are not sleeping: Malawi’s opposition in exile’ (‘Hubs’ of Liberation and Cold War Southern Africa: London, Cairo, Dar-es-Salaam, Stockholm, Leipzig and Lisbon, University of London Southern Africa Seminar Series, June 2022)

‘Unity, Loyalty, Obedience, Discipline: The Militarization of the Malawi Young Pioneers’ (Warwick History Postgraduate Conference, May 2022)

‘Keeping communism out: Cold warriors in 1960s Malawi’ (British Federation of Women Graduates Research Presentation Day, May 2022)

Funding and Awards

Cold War Archives Research (CWAR) Institute Fellowship, 2023-2024

Moody Research Grant, 2022

RHS Martin Lynn Scholarship in African History, 2022

Wolfson Postgraduate Scholarship in the Humanities, 2021-2024

Newton College Masters Studentship, 2016-2017

Norman Hampson Dissertation Prize, 2016


Office Hour:

Thursday, 11-12pm

FAB 3.36 (third floor, Faculty of Arts Building)