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Dr Tim Livsey

VC Senior Fellow

Department: Humanities

Tim Livsey is a historian of West Africa. His research focuses on culture and cities to offer new perspectives on histories of development and decolonisation. His book Nigeria's University Age: Reframing Decolonisation and Development was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2017.

Tim joined Northumbria in 2019. He has previously taught at King’s College London, the London School of Economics, Leeds Beckett University, and the University of Oxford. In 2014 he was a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University, funded by the Fulbright Commission.

Tim Livsey


  • History PhD June 01 2014
  • July 01 2003
  • PGCE

Key Publications

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • ‘Revisiting Nigeria’s University Age ’, Livsey, T. 16 Jul 2019, In: Journal of African Cultural Studies
  • Nigeria's University Age, Livsey, T. 1 Nov 2017
  • Imagining an Imperial Modernity, Livsey, T. 1 Nov 2016, In: Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
  • ‘Suitable lodgings for students’, Livsey, T. 6 Feb 2014, In: Urban History

Research Themes and Scholarly Interests

Main research areas:

  • West Africa
  • Transnational history
  • Decolonisation
  • Development
  • Urban landscapes
  • Everyday life

Tim’s research focuses on culture and cities to offer new perspectives on histories of development and decolonisation. In recent years, his research has centred on Nigerian universities. Tim’s first monograph, Nigeria’s University Age: Reframing Development and Decolonisation, was published in 2017. The book explores how Nigerian nationalist politicians, British colonial officials, and American aid experts alike saw Nigerian universities as vital. They believed that universities would drive national development, and produce the future leaders of the independent nation. The book draws on research in Nigeria, the United States, and Britain, to explore this history from multiple perspectives. It examines the impact of Nigerian campaigns for development during colonial rule; the significance of university buildings, students’ everyday life, and Cold War politics in development and decolonisation; and the place of universities in postcolonial Nigeria. The book will be the subject of a roundtable discussion in a forthcoming issues of the Journal of African Cultural Studies.

Tim is currently working a new project on housing and state-building across Anglophone West Africa from 1920 to 1980. This research investigates how housing planned by states was a powerful symbol of development. Housing formed an important nexus between the state and the individual, between plans and practice, and between the locality and the wider world. Focusing on housing for non-elite subjects and citizens, and for chiefs and state officials, the research ranges from ‘slum’ clearance to ‘Government Reservations’. It explores how housing was a central element of state-building across colonial, decolonising, and postcolonial West Africa.

In addition, Tim has worked on relationships between decolonisation and built environments in Britain. He led a collaborative project that involved the film maker James Price, the Pepys Community Library, and residents of the Pepys Estate in Deptford, south London. Together, they made ‘Reading Pepys’, a short film about the area. The site of a naval yard founded by Henry VIII, the Pepys Estate was constructed as a showpiece of social housing after the yard closed in the early 1960s. The film reflects on the relationships between echoes of empire, the welfare state, and British urban landscapes. It was recently shown at the exhibition Living with Buildings at the Wellcome Collection in London.

Pepys Estate Project


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