Dr Simon Stevens

B.A., M.Phil. (Cambridge), Ph.D. (Columbia)

Department of History

Lecturer in International History

simon.stevens@sheffield.ac.uk
+44 114 222 2618

Full contact details

Dr Simon Stevens
Department of History
2.12
Jessop West
1 Upper Hanover Street
Sheffield
S3 7RA
Profile

I am a historian of international and transnational relations in the twentieth century, with a particular focus on the history of South Africa and on South Africa’s relations with the United States, Britain, and the rest of the world. 

I am currently working on my first book, Laying Siege to South Africa, an international history of the development and deployment of boycotts and sanctions in the struggle against apartheid, from the early twentieth century until the 1970s. 

I have also recently published articles stemming from a separate project on the ‘turn to violence’ by South African opponents of apartheid in the 1960s.

I teach modules on international order in the twentieth century, decolonisation, and modern South Africa. I also supervise BA and MA dissertations on a wide range of topics in African, American, British, and international history.

I joined the Department of History at Sheffield in 2016, having completed my Ph.D. at Columbia University in New York, and my undergraduate and master’s degrees at the University of Cambridge. Before coming to Sheffield, I held pre-doctoral fellowships at Harvard University, New York University, and the University of Virginia, and post-doctoral fellowships at the European University Institute in Florence and St John’s College, Cambridge.

Qualifications
  • BA Hons (Cambridge), History (2006)
  • M.Phil. (Cambridge), Historical Studies (2008)
  • Ph.D. (Columbia), History (2016)
Research interests

My research focuses on opposition to segregation and apartheid in South Africa, both from within South Africa itself, and in the United States, Britain, and the rest of the world.

My current book project, Laying Siege to South Africa, is an international history of the development and deployment of various kinds of boycotts and sanctions by the global anti-apartheid movement, from the early twentieth century until the 1970s. The project is based on research in more than 80 archival repositories in South Africa, Zambia, Kenya, Ghana, the United States, Britain, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

My manuscript-in-progress analyses how and why opponents of South Africa’s racial order chose to campaign for various kinds of boycotts and sanctions - including consumer boycotts, workers’ boycotts, sports and cultural boycotts, divestment and disinvestment, and governmental trade, financial, and diplomatic sanctions. The book explores what the consequences of those choices were, both for apartheid and the struggle against it, and for global politics. 

Stemming from a separate project, my most recent publications are a pair of articles that analyse the ‘turn to violence’ by the African National Congress and its allies in South Africa in the 1960s. The first article, published in Past & Present, analyses why that ‘turn’ initially took the form of non-lethal symbolic sabotage (primarily bombings of empty government buildings and other installations associated with the implementation of apartheid). The second article, published in the Journal of Southern African Studies, analyses the process by which the Congress movement subsequently came to focus on rural guerrilla warfare as a free-standing and sufficient first step towards ‘all-out war’ and the armed seizure of power.

Publications

Journal articles

Chapters

  • Stevens SM (2015) Bloke Modisane in East Germany In Slobodian Q (Ed.), Comrades of Color: East Germany in the Cold War World (pp. 121-130). New York: Berghahn. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Stevens S (2014) Chapter 12. Why South Africa? The Politics of Anti-Apartheid Activism in Britain in the Long 1970s, The Breakthrough (pp. 204-225). University of Pennsylvania Press RIS download Bibtex download
  • Stevens S (2014) Why South Africa? The Politics of Anti-Apartheid Activism in Britain in the Long 1970s In Eckel J & Moyn S (Ed.), The Breakthrough: Human Rights in the 1970s (pp. 204-225). Philadelphia: Pennsylvania University Press. RIS download Bibtex download

Book reviews

  • Stevens S (2014) Non-Alignment and the United States [review of Kennedy, Johnson, and the Nonaligned World by Robert B. Rakove]. H-1960s H-Net Reviews. RIS download Bibtex download
  • Stevens S (2012) A Grand Design. Diplomatic History, 36(5), 797-800. RIS download Bibtex download
Research group

Research supervision

I am happy to supervise students interested in modern international history, in particular those with interests in decolonisation, international order, transnational activism, South Africa, Africa and the world, Britain and the world, and the United States and the world.

Find out more about PhD study in History

Grants
  • Research Fellowship, St John’s College, University of Cambridge (2016-17)
  • Max Weber Fellowship, European University Institute (2015-16)
  • National Fellowship, Miller Center for Public Affairs, University of Virginia (2014-15)
  • Josephine De Karman Fellowship (2014-15)
  • Center for the United States and the Cold War Fellowship, New York University (2013)
  • Research Exchange Fellowship, London School of Economics (2011-12)
  • Joseph Hodges Choate Memorial Fellowship, Harvard University (2006-07)
Teaching activities

Undergraduate (module leader):

  • HST2514 - Decolonisation: The End of Empire & the Future of the World
  • HST31037 - Resistance & Liberation in South Africa: Gandhi to Mandela

Undergraduate (team-taught modules):

  • HST117 - The Making of the Twentieth Century
  • HST202 - Historians and History

Postgraduate (module leader):

  • HST6076 - International Order in the Twentieth Century

Postgraduate (team-taught modules): 

  • HST6603 - Modernity and Power: Individuals and the State in the Modern World
  • HST6606 - The World in Connection: Themes in Global History

Undergraduate and MA research supervision:

  • HST398 - Dissertation (short) and HST399 - Dissertation (long)
  • HST6560 - Dissertation in History

I supervise BA and MA dissertations on a wide range of topics in African, American, British, and international history.

Professional activities

I have served as a peer reviewer for the National Research Foundation of South Africa, and for journals including Diplomatic History, Historical Journal, Journal of American Studies, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Safundi: the Journal of South African and American Studies, South African Historical Journal, and Twentieth Century British History.