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Dr Tim Gibbs


Tim Gibbs is a lecturer in African History at UCL. Before this he was a Junior Research Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. His first book, Mandela’s Kinsmen: nationalist elites and apartheid’s first Bantustan (2014), looked at ethnic identities and elite nationalism in an era of mass insurrection and insurgency in southern Africa. A new strand of Tim's research focuses on the lawyers who formed the core of South Africa’s black intelligentsia for much of the 20th century. He is currently writing articles on professional and elite formation in a segregated society; legal activism and land rights debates; and human rights debates in the late Cold War.

Tim's current book project looks at the insurrections that followed the influx of migrants into apartheid’s cities during the final decades of apartheid. He focuses particularly on how changing modes of transport – a shift from trains and buses to privately-run minibus-taxis – reshaped politics and the popular economy of the cities and their peri-urban hinterlands. 

He is also starting research on taxes, fees and state formation, focusing on the antecedents of ‘service delivery protests’ in South Africa’s, poorest, rural hinterlands.

PhD supervision

Tim specialises in southern Africa and would be interested in hearing from potential PhD students working in the history of this region.

Major publications

  • Mandela's Kinsmen: Nationalist Elites and Apartheid's First Bantustan (Martlesham: James Currey, 2014).
  • 'Becoming a Big Man in Neo-Liberal South Africa: migrant masculinities in the minibus-taxi industry', African Affairs 113 (452), July 2014, 431-448.

Grants and projects

Tim's postdoctoral research into transport, migration, and mobility was funded by the South African National Research Foundation.

Media appearances

Tim's first book was widely profiled in South African newspapers: