London beckons for historian

25 July 2008 | Story by Bongani Kona

Prof Vivian Bickford-Smith
Making history: Prof Vivian Bickford-Smith heads for London University soon as a visiting professor

Professor Vivian Bickford-Smith, head of UCT's Department of Historical Studies, has been awarded a fully funded Leverhulme Visiting Professorship in Comparative Metropolitan History at London University.

Bickford-Smith will take up the prestigious professorship in October 2008 for one year, and will be based at the Centre for Metropolitan History in the Institute of Historical Research at London University.

"Given my research interest, I am delighted at this opportunity to spend time in a centre devoted to urban history with expert historians able to offer a comparative perspective," he said of the opportunity.

The Leverhulme History Professor is required to undertake research and writing on comparative urban history - in Bickford-Smith's case, the histories of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. His research will look at how each city was imagined through the twentieth century to the near present, using the likes of tourist material, novels, films, and popular histories.

"The intention is also to examine how identification with particular parts of the city - e.g. a particular township, informal settlement or suburb - underpinned group identities, including different ethnicities and nationalisms," said Bickford-Smith. "The project brings together my interests in urban history, film and history, and the history of South African ethnicities and nationalisms."

The London University has remarkable resources close by, such as the British Film Institute, the BBC archives and the British Library, notes Bickford-Smith.

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