Gerardo SERRA


Gerardo SERRA

Histoire, University of Sussex, United Kingdom

Fellowship : October 2017 to June 2018

Discipline(s) : History

Pays : United Kingdom

Research project: Economics, Statistics and Political Imagination in Ghana and Nigeria, 1948-1991

The project analyses the role played by economics and statistics in shaping the political trajectory of Ghana and Nigeria. The project is composed of two interrelated strands. The first explores the role of economics and statistics in the transformation of Ghana from colonial dependency to socialist state from 1948 to 1966. The second analyses the controversial history and politics of population counting in postcolonial Nigeria. This will be done through a series of historical ethnographies of the censuses undertaken between 1962 and 1991, and using them as entry point to document the concrete strategies employed by state and non-state actors to shape the construction of population figures, and reflect on the changing nature of the Nigerian state and its relationship with its citizens. Drawing on insights and approaches from the history and sociology of science, political economy and intellectual history, the project is based on a wide range of archival materials collected in Britain, Ghana, United States and (in the future) Nigeria. The project primarily aims at providing a historical reconstruction and a theoretical reconceptualization of the ‘political’ role played by the social sciences in the making of West African intellectual and economic history.


Gerardo Serra is a Lecturer in Economic History at the University of Sussex. Following a degree in Economics and Management for the Arts, Culture and Communication from Bocconi University in Milan, he completed a Master of Science and a PhD in Economic History in London. His PhD thesis From Scattered Data to Ideological Education: Economics, Statistics and the State in Ghana, 1948-1966 has been awarded the 2016 Joseph Dorfman Prize for the best dissertation in the history of economics. Gerardo’s research interests include the history and sociology of economics and statistics, the economic and political history of colonial and postcolonial West Africa, and the intellectual history of dictatorships. During his fellowship at Nantes, Gerardo will work on his first monograph based on his PhD, and start a new research project

Major publications

SERRA, Gerardo. Forthcoming. ‘“Hail the census night”: Political imagination and the building of trust in the 1960 Population Census of Ghana’, Comparative Studies in Society and History.

AUSTIN, Gareth and SERRA, Gerardo. 2014. ‘West Africa’, in V. Barnett (ed.) The Routledge Handbook of the History of Global Economic Thought. London and New York, pp. 243-256.

SERRA, Gerardo. 2014. ‘An Uneven Statistical Topography: The Political Economy of Household Budget Surveys in Late Colonial Ghana, 1951-1957’, in Morten Jerven (ed.) Measuring African Development: Past and Present, special issue of Canadian Journal of Development Studies 35:1, 9-27.

SERRA, Gerardo. 2014. ‘Continental Visions: Ann Seidman, Reginald H. Green and the Economics of African Unity in 1960s Ghana’ Centre for the History of Political Economy, Duke University, working paper 2014-8.