Department of History

Michelle R. Moyd

  • Associate Professor, Department of History


  • Ph.D. at Cornell University, 2008

Contact Information

Ballantine Hall, Rm. 720
(812) 856-4787


Michelle R. Moyd

Trained as a historian of eastern Africa, my research explores the social and cultural history of soldiers in the colonial army of German East Africa, today’s Tanzania. These soldiers, known as askari, had a reputation for brutality among east Africans who encountered them in their everyday lives. They have also been portrayed as profoundly loyal to their German officers.  By placing these soldiers in their immediate cultural and social contexts (community, family, military training) -- I try to move away from stereotypical descriptions to a more historically informed understanding of askari identities, motivations, and loyalties. I am currently at work on my first book project, which examines the ways that the askari identities arose out of, and were shaped by, their geographical and sociological origins, their ways of war, and their roles as agents of the colonial state. I contend that soldiers should be understood as people with complex loyalties and desires that are not always easily explained in terms of patriotism or nationalism. I will continue exploring this theme in a planned second book project on the social and cultural history of the 1979 Kagera War fought between Tanzania and Uganda. My teaching draws on overlapping interests in African history, social and cultural histories of conflict and militarization, and the histories of everyday colonialism. Recently, I have also begun thinking about the historical linkages between militaries and work. I anticipate that this new thread will inform both my teaching and research in the next few years.

Selected Awards

  • International Research Center Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History, Humboldt University, Berlin, Resident Fellow (2012-2013)
  • New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Research Fellowship, Indiana University (2011-2012)
  • Institute for Historical Studies, University of Texas-Austin, Resident Fellow (2010-2011)
  • Indiana University Campus Writing Program, Summer Teaching Writing Fellowship (2010)
  • American Council on Germany Research Grant (2008)
  • Seymour Bluestone Fellowship, Cornell University (2008)
  • Provost's Diversity Fellowship, Cornell University (2007)
  • Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies (2004-5)
  • Fulbright Fellowship, Tanzania (2003-2004)

Research Interests

  • African military history
  • Militaries and labor
  • Everyday history of colonialism
  • Power and its expressions
  • World War I

Courses Recently Taught

•    E200 War and Peace in Twentieth-Century Africa
•    E331 Reflections of the Past in the Present: Africa to the 1800s
•    E332 Conflict, Cooperation, and Cultural Change: Africa Since the 1800s
•    J300 African Military Cultures and Conflicts
•    J300 African War Stories: History and Representation
•    H695 Eastern Africa
•    H695 War, Peace, Other in African History

Publication Highlights

Violent Intermediaries:  African Soldiers, Conquest, and Everyday Colonialism in German East Africa (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2014).

"Bomani: African Soldiers as Colonial Intermediaries in German East Africa, 1890-1914," in Nina Berman, Klaus Muehlhahn, and Patrice Nganang, eds., German Colonialism Revisited: African, Asian, and Oceanic Responses (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014).

“Making the Household, Making the State: Colonial Military Communities and Labor in German East Africa,” International Labor and Working Class History 80 (Fall 2011), 53-76.

"'We don't want to die for nothing': Askari at War in German East Africa, 1914-1918," in Santanu Das, ed., Race, Empire, and First World War Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

"'All people were barbarians to the askari':  Askari Identity and Honor in the Maji Maji War, 1905-1907," in James Giblin and Jamie Monson, eds., Maji Maji: Lifting the Fog of War  (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

"Askari/Askari Myth" in A Companion to Continental European Postcolonial Histories, Birthe Kundrus, ed. (Edinburgh and New York: Edinburgh University Press and Columbia University Press, 2008).

"A Uniform of Whiteness: Racisms in the German Officer Corps," in Jenny Macleod and Pierre Purseigle, eds., Uncovered Fields: Perspectives in First World War Studies (Leiden: Brill 2004).