Professor Niven gained his MA from the University of St. Andrews in 1980, and in 1984, he was awarded his PhD for a thesis on the reception of Friedrich Hebbel’s dramas during the Third Reich.
From 1984 to 1985, he taught at the University of Klagenfurt (Austria), before moving to Munich, where he worked for Siemens and Siemens-Nixdorf as a translator until 1993. From 1993 to 1998, he was a lecturer in the German Department of Aberdeen University, before being appointed Reader in History at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) in 1998. He became Professor of Contemporary German History at NTU in 2005, where he was awarded the Vice-Chancellor’s Outstanding Researcher Award in 2017.
Bill has published widely on Germany’s attempts to face the Nazi past, having become interested in the subject after witnessing, first-hand, the impact of the exhibition “Crimes of the Wehrmacht” on the German public in Munich in 1997. His authored books include "Facing the Nazi Past" (2001), "The Buchenwald Child" (2007; German, 2009), and "Representations of Flight and Expulsion in East German Prose Works" (2014). He is editor of "Germans as Victims" (2006) and "Die Wilhelm Gustloff: Geschichte und Erinnerung eines Untergangs" (2011), as well as coeditor (with Chloe Paver) of "Memorialization in Germany since 1945" (2010). He is also coeditor, with Stefan Berger, of two books on memory more generally: "Writing the History of Memory" (2016), and "A Cultural History of Memory in the 20th Century" (forthcoming, 2020)
In 2018, Bill published Hitler and Film, which analyses Hitler’s relationship to the Nazi film industry. He is now writing a book, for Mitteldeutscher Verlag, about the history and postwar reception of the anti-Semitic Nazi film "Jud Süβ" (see http://blog.yalebooks.com/2018/05/22/nazi-cinema/).
Bill supervises, as first and second supervisor, about 10 PhD students, and runs the Holocaust and Genocide MA at NTU. He works together with the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, for which he, together with his students, created a digital exhibition Legacies of the Holocaust (a briefer online version is available at https://www.holocaust.org.uk/legacies).
National Socialism. Hitler. Memory of the Third Reich. History and memory of East Germany. Contemporary Germany. 20th century German film and literature. Memorials and memorialisation in the 20th and 21st centuries.