Both an academic and a journalist, Joseph Hanlon moved from a PhD in physics at Tufts University to the staff of New Scientist to being BBC and Guardian stringer in Mozambique (1980-84). More detailed research and book writing followed as he moved into development studies. Other projects included serving as coordinator of the Commonwealth Independent Expert Study on Sanctions Against Apartheid South Africa (1989-90) and Policy Advisor for the Jubilee 2000 campaign to cancel developing country debt (1998-2000). He became a Visiting Senior Fellow at LSE in 2008, linked then to the Crisis States Research Centre. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Open University.
His research interests include Mozambique, Bangladesh climate change and small-scale commercial farming in Africa. Half of his work is about Mozambique. He has written seven books on Mozambique and has reported on all of Mozambique's multi-party elections. He curates a website with Mozambique election data since 1999 to encourage collaborative research. Dr Hanlon has edited a newsletter on Mozambique since 1993.
The other half of his work has been more varied, including civil wars, cash transfers (child benefit, non-contributory pension, etc), and Zimbabwe's land reform. The next book, to be published by Anthem in 2017, is Climate change: Keeping our heads above water in Bangladesh. Research is also underway looking at small-scale commercial agriculture in four African countries.
He has written many books including Mozambique: Who Calls the Shots (1991) and South Africa: The Sanctions Report (1989) He has also co-authored many books including Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land (2013), Just Give Money to the Poor (2010) and Civil War, Civil Peace (2005).