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Dr Tim Livsey

VC Senior Fellow

Department: Humanities

Tim Livsey is a historian of West Africa. His research focuses on archives, cities, and culture to offer new perspectives on 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. His research has been funded by organisations including the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Fulbright Commission.


Tim is currently working on two research projects. The first focuses on the ‘migrated archives’, a collection of thousands of files that British authorities covertly removed from 37 colonised territories during transfers of power. The research considers the racialised politics of knowledge production by examining how British authorities selected, removed, and used these records. Focusing especially on the 413 files removed from Nigeria, the research revisits the myth of the archives’ secrecy, and asks what use these files are to historians of Africa today. Work from this project has been published in History Workshop Journal.

Tim is also working on a long term project about housing, urban planning, and state-building in Lagos, Nigeria from 1935 to 1980. This research explores the importance of debates about urban space to state-building. State housing formed an important nexus between the state and the individual, between plans and practice, and between the locality and the wider world. Encompassing elite and non-elite housing, the research ranges from ‘slum’ clearance projects to exclusive ‘government reservations’ to reassess relationships between states and cities in West Africa. Work from this project has been published in the Journal of West African History and is forthcoming in the Journal of African History.

Tim’s earlier research centred on Nigerian universities from the 1930s to the 1960s. His first monograph, Nigeria’s University Age: Reframing Development and Decolonisation, was published in 2017. Using political, cultural, and spatial approaches, the book shows how Nigerians and foreign donors alike saw the nation’s new universities as vital institutions: a means to educate future national leaders, drive economic growth, and make a modern Nigeria. At universities, students, scholars, visionaries, and rebels considered and contested colonialism, the global Cold War, and the future of Nigeria. The book draws on extensive research in Nigeria, the United States, and Britain, to explore how university life was shaped by, and formed, experiences of decolonisation and development. The book has been the subject of a roundtable discussion in the Journal of African Cultural Studies.

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.

Tim Livsey

Key Publications

  • Please visit the Pure Research Information Portal for further information
  • Nigeria and World War II: Colonialism, empire, and global conflict, Livsey, T. 27 Apr 2022, In: African Affairs
  • Open secrets: the British ‘migrated archives’, colonial history, and postcolonial history , Livsey, T. 24 Feb 2022, In: History Workshop Journal
  • Grave Reservations: Nigerian Literature and Histories of 'European Reservations' during Decolonization, Livsey, T. 2021, In: Journal of West African History
  • Revisiting Nigeria’s University Age, Livsey, T. 2 Jul 2020, In: Journal of African Cultural Studies
  • Nigeria's University Age: Reframing Decolonisation and Development, Livsey, T. 1 Nov 2017
  • Imagining an Imperial Modernity: Universities and the West African Roots of Colonial Development, Livsey, T. 1 Nov 2016, In: Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
  • ‘Suitable lodgings for students’: modern space, colonial development and decolonization in Nigeria, Livsey, T. 6 Feb 2014, In: Urban History


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

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