Prof William Whyte


Like all historians, I am interested in people, but unlike many I am also equally preoccupied by things and places.  I'm especially intrigued by what the serious investigation of the built and natural environment does to existing accounts of modern British and European history. My research has consequently often focused on architecture, and I have a special interest in institutions like schools, universities, and churches.

My first book, Oxford Jackson: architecture, education, status, and style, 1835-1924 (OUP, 2006) explored the work of an influential university architect.  My second, funded by a Philip Leverhulme Prize, was Redbrick: a social and architectural history of Britain's civic universities (OUP, 2015). My third, Unlocking the Church: the lost secrets of Victorian sacred space (OUP, 2017), grew out of my Hensley Henson Lectures. Now, as the final part of what's become a trilogy on university architecture, I am working on The University: a material history, for Harvard University Press. Along the way, I have edited or co-edited eight other books. Current projects include the six-volume Cultural History of Objects, which I am editing with professor Dan Hicks. 

Within the university, I am one of the electors for the Ford Lectures and sit on the editorial boards of both the Oxford Historical Monographs series and the Rewley House Studies in the Historic Environment series.

Beyond the university, I am chairman of the Oxford Preservation Trust and the Oxford Historical Society. I sit on the board of the Oxford Review of Education and am a member of the International Commission for the History of Universities/Commission internationale pour l'histoire des universites.

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