John Hanson

Interim Chair, Department of History

Professor, Department of History

Department of History

IU; IU Bloomington

Full Biography

My research explores the religious imagination and social initiatives of Muslims in western Africa. My most recent book, The Ahmadiyya in the Gold Coast: Muslim Cosmopolitans in the British Empire (Indiana University Press, 2017), concerns the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a trans-national Islamic movement with origins in South Asia that gained a significant following in twentieth century Ghana. I also reflect on historical methods and am co-editor of History in Africa: A Journal of Debates, Methods and Source Analysis.  My teaching concerns the full range of transformations associated with Africa during the last six hundred years. I also am interested in Middle Eastern history and hold an adjunct appointment in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures.

Honors and Awards

  • Gerda Henkel Foundation Research Scholarship, 2013-14
  • John W. Ryan Award for Distinguished Contributions to International Studies, IU, 2011
  • Fellow, National Humanities Center, 2009-10
  • Fulbright-Hays Faculty Research Abroad fellowship, 2005
  • Rockefeller Humanities fellowship, 2004
  • Trustee's Teaching Award, IU, 2001

Research Interests

  • Africa
  • Religion
  • Intellectual and cultural


  • Ph.D. at Michigan State University, 1989

Courses Taught

  • African Civilizations; and African History I: Ancient Empires and City-States
  • History of Christianity in Africa; and History of Islam in Africa
  • History of Western Africa
  • Graduate colloquiums and seminars on African religious identities; memory and literacy: colonial encounters



  • The Ahmadiyya in the Gold Coast: Muslim Cosmopolitans in the British Empire (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017)
  • Discourses of Muslim Scholars in Colonial Ghana, Arabic documents edited, translated, annotated and introduced by John H. Hanson and Muhammad al-Munir Gibrill (
  • Friday Prayers at Wa (CD-ROM unit), in Patrick McNaughton, John Hanson, dele jegede, Ruth Stone, and N. Brian Winchester, Five Windows Into Africa (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000).
  • Migration, Jihad and Muslim Authority in West Africa; the Futanke Colonies in Karta 
  • (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).
  • After the Jihad: The Reign of Ahmad al-Kabir in the Western Sudan, an anthology of Arabic documents, edited, translated into English and annotated by John Hanson and David Robinson (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1991).


  • 'Sub-Saharan Africa after World War One,' in Francis Robinson, ed., New Cambridge History of Islam, Volume Five, Islam in the Age of Western Domination (Michael Cook, series ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
  • 'Modernity, religion and development in Ghana: the example of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community,' Ghana Studies, Volume 12/13 (2009/10), 55-75
  • 'Jihad and the Ahmadiyya Muslim community: non-violent efforts to promote Islam in the contemporary world,' Nova Religio, Volume 14 (2007), 77-93
  • 'Islam, migration and the political economy of meaning: fergo Nioro from the Senegal River valley, 1862-1890,” Journal of African History, Volume 35, no. 1 (1994), 37-60.