Professor Richard Dennis
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26 Bedford Way
Phone: 020 7679 7563
Fax: 020 7679 7565
Richard Dennis read Geography as an undergraduate and postgraduate at, . His PhD thesis, 'Community and social interaction in a Victorian city: Huddersfield, 1850-1880', prepared the way for a book on English Industrial Cities of the Nineteenth Century: A Social Geography ( , 1984). After a year as Junior Research Fellow in Geography at the , he was appointed Lecturer at in 1974, and promoted to Reader in 1991. He has also spent periods as a Leverhulme Research Fellow and Research Associate at the (1986-87), as Visiting Lecturer in Geography at (1982), and as Visiting Professor at and the (1991).
He was Associate Editor offrom 1997 to 2007 and is on the Editorial Board of . Until 2004 he was also a Series Editor of Cambridge Studies in Historical Geography (published by ). Since 1993 he has been convener of the , and co-convener of the Seminar at the University of London , and in 2008 he became Secretary of the s. He is also an Associate Fellow of the
He was a member of the advisory committee of the three-volume Cambridge Urban History of Britain (, 2000), and has also served as an academic advisor for the . He is also currently a member of the Board of Trustees of the , and of the Board of Management of the Centre for Metropolitan History.
London:A Geographical Introduction I am the convener of this major first-year course, and teach the module on 'The Historical Geography of London' and 'Contemporary Social Geography'.
Methods in Human Geography I teach a module on historical methods.
Cities and Modernity A specialist third-year course closely related to my research interests in British and North American cities, 1850-1939.
I am convenor of the master's degree in Modernity, Space and Place, oversee the Research Dissertation which forms 40 per cent of the degree, and teach a module on 'Modern Cities: Representing Modernity, 1850-1920', focused on questions of the production of ‘modern’ urban spaces and their representation in social surveys, cartography, art and literature.
Some useful links to the British Library, and other key sites:
- The British Library:
- The National Archives:
- Access to Archives (index of British archives):
- UK Family History Online (gateway to information about the Census):
- Corporation of London (gateway site for Guildhall Art Gallery/Collage/London Metropolitan Archives - click on 'Leisure and Heritage', then on 'Libraries ...'):
- New York Public Library:
- Toronto Public Library:
Three more specialist archives:
- City of Toronto Archives :
- Westminster Archives Centre:
- Charles Booth Online Archive:
Two museums; the New York site has links to other New York museums and archives:
- Museum of the City of New York :
- Museum of London :
And some literary excursions:
- City Sites: Multimedia Essays on New York and Chicago 1870s-1930s:
- Gissing in Cyberspace (e-texts of Gissing novels):
And other academic institutions focused on urban history:
- Centre for Metropolitan History:
- Centre for Urban History, Leicester:
- 2001 'The management of rented housing in Toronto, with special reference to Ancroft Place Limited, 1926-1973' ; $4000 Canada Research Award
- 1997-98 'Modernity and multi-storey living: apartment tenants in Canadian cities, 1900-1939' (Research Officer: Ms Ceinwen Giles); £39000 from the Economic & Social Research Council
- 1997 Foundation for Canadian Studies, small grant for further research in the Land Registry, Toronto
- 1995 'The ownership and occupancy of apartment housing in Winnipeg and Toronto, 1920-39' ; $3550 Canada Research Award
My research focuses on the 'modernity' of cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I am interested in the modernization of the built environment, in ‘new spaces’ in cities, and also in new ways of seeing the city. I am also keen to promote a degree of methodological eclecticism, combining a variety of quantitative and qualitative, archival and literary approaches. Thematically, my archival research has been principally concerned with the development, ownership, management, occupancy and experience of new residential forms, including middle-class apartment buildings and working-class model dwellings in London and Toronto in the period 1880-1939.
Research on Canada is directed towards the production of a book on American Apartments in Canadian Cities, which will combine analysis of quantifiable records – building permits, directories, assessment records, property deeds, probate returns – which reveal who owned and who lived in apartments, and how the market in apartment property operated, with case studies of planning controversies reported in newspaper articles, council minutes and correspondence, and also with study of the representation of apartment life in contemporary novels, guide books and advertising.
Research on London uses similar methods, but focuses as much on the construction and representation of ‘model dwellings’ as on luxury apartments. My chapters in Black and Butlin (eds) Place, Culture and Identity (2001) and Spiers (ed) Gissing and the City (2006) illustrate my methodological approach in the context of blocks of mansion flats and model dwellings which featured prominently both in architectural discourse about living in flats and in George Gissing’s novels of London life such as The Nether World (1889), New Grub Street (1891) and The Whirlpool (1897).
Most recently, my historical housing interests have concentrated on each extreme in the social hierarchy of nineteenth-century London – in London’s first high-rise luxury flats that foreshadow more recent enthusiasm for pethouses and loft-living, and in the common lodging-houses associated with Jack the Ripper’s victims in 1880s Whitechapel.
Gissing's use of London locations in other of his books, e.g. The Unclassed (1884, 1895), The Odd Women (1893) and In The Year of Jubilee (1894) underlies further ongoing work on diverse sites of modernity in late Victorian London while, in my work on Toronto, I have explored the moral geography of the city in the writing of ‘Canada's first urban novelist’, Morley Callaghan. The Canadian dimension to my work is also reflected in a forthcoming collection of essays on The Contemporary Canadian Metropolis (Institute for the Study of the Americas, 2008) which I am co-editing with Ceri Morgan and Stephen Shaw.
I have also become fascinated by the depiction of the elevated railway in the literature and art of late 19th-century and early 20th-century New York; and, in using the metaphor of bridge-building to represent my own methodological eclecticism, I have researched the historical geographies of real bridges – Brooklyn Bridge, Tower Bridge and the Bloor Street Viaduct – in New York, London and Toronto. The wider project to which all these studies contribute is a review of the different, regulatory and experiential, strands of urban modernity in a book on Cities in Modernity: Representations and Productions of Metropolitan Space, 1840-1930(Cambridge University Press, June 2008). The book examines new ways of seeing Anglo-American cities – in literature, art, mapping and social survey – and new forms of public and private, residential, financial, commercial and leisure spaces.
Richard Dennis supervises doctoral students in the social and cultural geography of 19th- and 20th-century cities. He has extensive experience as external examiner for more than two-dozen doctoral theses in Britain, North America, Australia and South Africa. Since 2000, his own research students have included:
Larry Cort (privately funded): ‘“This is the place for toil”: Neighbourhoods at Work in the Later Victorian Black Country’ (PhD awarded, 2001)
Caroline Bressey (Claire Dwyer) (PhD awarded, 2003)funded): ‘Forgotten Geographies: Spaces of Black Women’s Identity in Late 19th-Century London’ (supervised jointly with
Sarah Glynn (Claire Dwyer) (PhD awarded, 2003)funded): ‘The Home and the World: Bengali Political Mobilisation in London’s East End, and a Comparison with the Jewish Past’ (supervised jointly with
Clifford German (privately funded): ‘Property and Population Change in Northampton in the Mid-Nineteenth Century’ (ongoing)
Charlotte Jones (ESRC funded): ‘A Social History of Turkish Baths in Victorian London’ (supervised jointly with James Kneale) (2008-)