Dr Karl Bell
Reader in Cultural and Social History
I am a cultural and social historian of the nineteenth century and director of the Supernatural Cities project. In 2013 I received the Katharine Briggs Award for my second monograph, The Legend of Spring-heeled Jack.
My research interests fall under the umbrella heading of ‘the fantastical imagination’. I take this to include magical beliefs and practices, ghosts and the supernatural, prophecy and millenarianism, legends, folklore and (proto-) science-fiction tropes in the modern period (anything post-1700). I am particularly interested in the way these ideas and mentalities informed the experience and understanding of modernisation.
At the same time I use these rather offbeat areas of historical research to explore the nature of different types of nineteenth-century cultures and the concept of modernity. I am happy to supervise PhDs on any of these weird and wonderful topics. I have been a member of the University of Portsmouth's History team since 2007.
My current research interests include
- Completing an edited book on supernatural practices and beliefs in cities around the world, c.1800-2010
- Exploring interdisciplinary and technological approaches to understanding urban space and the creative imagination
- The nineteenth-century fantastical imagination and early science fiction