Emeritus Professor Vivian Bickford-Smith received his PhD from Cambridge University and specialises in modern history with a South African regional focus. His research has been mainly in three sometimes overlapping areas: urban history, film and history, and ethnicity and nationalism. Within all three, Vivian has been particularly interested in exploring the creation, interaction and perception of supposedly discrete ethnic, racial and national identities, ambivalence in terms of such identities, and creolisation. He has also been interested in exploring methods, consequences and motivations behind how the past has been conveyed in specific written and visual forms such as cinematic history and popular or official city history books.
In terms of urban history, many publications have been on the history of Cape Town. He is currently writing a book for Cambridge University Press on cities and identities in twentieth century South Africa with particular reference to Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. The book deals with the way particular identities have been created, challenged and changed for each city. The book also examines identities associated with attachments to particular places within the three cities and how South African urbanity in general has been judged over time and with what consequences.
In July 2011, he organised a conference on ‘Shadow Cities’ (self-built housing in cities on different continents and over time) in London. The conference was a collaboration between the Centre for Metropolitan History, Institute of Historical Research, University of London and the University of Cape Town. In July 2010, he organized the Cities and Nationalism Conference, in London.
Vivian is on the Editorial Advisory Boards of South African Historical Journal, Urban History, Journal of Urban History and International Journal of Regional and Local History.
Cities and Identities in Twentieth-Century South Africa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).
(Co-edited with Richard Mendelsohn), Black and White in Colour: African History on Screen (Cape Town: Double Storey, Oxford: James Currey and Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007).
(Co-authored with Nigel Worden and Elizabeth Van Heyningen) Cape Town in the Twentieth Century: An Illustrated Social History (Cape Town: David Phillip Publishers, 1999).
(Co-authored with Nigel Worden and Elizabeth Van Heyningen) Cape Town: The Making of a City (Cape Town: David Phillip Publishers, 1998).
Ethnic Pride and Racial Prejudice in Victorian Cape Town (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
Journal Articles and Chapters in Books
“South African Cities in Film”, Journal of Southern African Studies, special issue on film (forthcoming 2013).
“The African Past on Screen: Moving beyond Dualism” in Constantin Parvulescu and Robert Rosenstone (eds.), A Companion to the Historical Film (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), pp. 468-489.
“Introduction: The Case for Studying Cities and Nationalisms” (as Guest Editor), Journal of Urban History: Special Issue on Cities and Nationalisms 38: 5 (2012), pp. 855-861.
“Providing Local Colour? ‘Cape Coloureds’, ‘Cockneys’ and the Identity of Cape Town from the Late Nineteenth Century to the 1970s”, Journal of Urban History, 38: 1 (2012), pp. 133-151.
“African Nationalist or British Loyalist? The Complicated Case of Tiyo Soga”, History Workshop Journal, 71: 1 (2011), pp. 74-97.
“Ethnicity, Place and Protest: Perspectives on Radical Cultures and Local Identities in South African Cities”, in Krista Cowman and Ian Packer (eds.) Radical Cultures and Local Identities in an International Context (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Press, 2010), pp. 195-212.
“The Fairest Cape of Them All? Cape Town in Cinematic Imagination”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 34: 1 (2010), pp. 92–114.
“Creating a City of the Tourist Imagination: The Case of Cape Town, ‘The Fairest Cape of Them All’”, Urban Studies 46: 9 (2009), pp. 1763-1785.
“Urban History in the New South Africa: Continuity and Innovation since the End of Apartheid”, Urban History, 35: 2 (2008), pp. 288-315.
“Rosenstone on Film, Rosenstone on History: An African Perspective”, Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, 11: 4 (2007), pp. 531-546.
“Writing about Englishness: South Africa’s Forgotten Nationalism” in Graham MacPhee and Prem Poddar (eds.), Empire and After: Englishness in Postcolonial Perspective (Oxford and New York: Bergahn, 2007), pp. 57-73.
“Picturing Apartheid: With a Particular Focus on ‘Hollywood’ Histories of the 1970s”, in Vivian Bickford-Smith and Richard Mendelsohn (eds.), Black and White in Colour: African History on Screen (Cape Town: Double Storey, Oxford: James Currey and Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007), pp. 256-278.
“The Betrayal of Creole Elites, 1880-1920” in Sean Hawkins and Phillip D. Morgan (eds.), Black Experience and the Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp. 194-227.
“Revisiting Anglicisation in the Nineteenth Century Cape Colony”, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 31: 2 (2003), pp. 82-95.
“Representing Cape Town on the Eve of Apartheid”, Urban History, 25: 1 (1998), pp. 36-59.
“Black Ethnicities, Communities and Political Expression in Late Victorian Cape Town”, Journal of African History, 36: 3 (1995), pp. 443-465.
“South African Urban History, Racial Segregation and the ‘Unique’ Case of Cape Town?” Journal of Southern African Studies, 20: 1 (1995), pp. 63-78.