Richter, Reynolds

Lecturer in History

Office Hours

Spring 2020: Zoom, Wednesdays 1-3pm



Ph.D. – History, New York University, 2016
M.A. – African Studies, Yale University, 2006
B.A. – International Studies and Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001


Interests and Research

Reynolds Richter is a historian of twentieth-century East Africa, with a focus on legal and environmental history. His current book project considers how popular understandings of law and practices of inscribing property rights in landscapes shaped the contours of decolonization in Kenya. The manuscript, Property and the Politics of Belonging in Coastal Kenya, reassesses the effects of Kenya’s land registration program—one of Africa’s most ambitious development projects—through which the state sought to replace unwritten “customary” land ownership and with an English-style system of individual title deeds. It shows how, under this legal development scheme, rural courts staffed by part-time “traditional elders” and newly-minted magistrates became key sites where Kenya’s capitalist agrarian revolution was to be produced. The book draws upon previously-neglected court records from the 1950s to 1980s to explore how coastal litigants connected debates about land rights, tree ownership, and local citizenship to the complex history of interaction between African, Islamic, and European legalities in the region.

Archival research for this project in Kenya and the UK, as well as oral history research in and around Mombasa, was funded through a Fulbright-Hays DDRA fellowship, the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute, and the Mellon Foundation. Dr. Richter received a Ph.D. in history from New York University, an M.A. in African Studies from Yale University, and a B.A. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His teaching specializations include courses on popular culture in African history, modern and pre-colonial African history, environmental history, and comparative colonial legal history.



“Popular Culture in Modern African History”
“East African History”


Selected Awards

2014    Humanities Research Fellowship, New York University-Abu Dhabi Institute
2012    Mellon Dissertation Fellowship in History, New York University
2009    Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship


Book review: Michael Birnhack, Colonial Copyright: Intellectual Property in Mandate Palestine, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012. Comparative Legal History 1, no. 2 (2013): 263-267.

“Argwings-Kodhek, Chiedo More Gem.” In Dictionary of African Biography, edited by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Emmanuel Akyeampong (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 266-7.