Photo of Professor Nicola Whyte

Professor Nicola Whyte

Associate Professor

01326 253799

01326 253799


My research lies the interface of early modern social history and post medieval landscape studies and is concerned with two broad, yet interconnected strands of enquiry. The first is concerned with the material and spatial ramifications of the social, economic and cultural developments of the period c.1500-c.1750. I’m interested in contemporary perceptions and experiences of landscape and environmental change, and have carried out extensive archival work on customary law, land use rights, conflict over the management of resources, the extent and nature of enclosure, and contested meanings of improvement.

The second strand of my research focuses on the relationship between landscape, place, memory and identity, and draws upon the expanding body of archaeological scholarship concerned with ‘the uses of the past in the past’ and the ‘life- histories’ of material objects including everyday artefacts, monuments, natural features and entire landscapes. I am particularly interested in the workings of oral memory and knowledge systems reproduced and circulated within households and wider neighbourhood, and mediated through the meanings and experiences embedded in the material world. Of central concern is the development of a cross-disciplinary engagement that brings the fields of landscape studies and early modern social history closer together. 

I teach modules on early modern social history and landscape history c.1500-1800.

I am currently Co-Investigator on a large collaborative project 'The Past in its Place' (see which aims to explore how a range of English and Welsh locales (including cathedrals, ancient habitations, and landscapes) have functioned as sites of memory from the middle ages to the present.

I am also Co-Investigator on Stories of Change: exploring energy and community in the past, present and future. This is a large-scale multidisciplinary research project working in collaboration with community arts organisations, artists and performers.

I am Co-Director of the Centre for Environmental Arts and Humanities. For further information including publications and events see




Research interests

  • The agrarian and social history of Britain especially: regional economies and agrarian change; management of resources; meanings of custom and improvement; popular politics and conflict; non-elite experiences and meanings of landscape.
  • Landscape and environmental history of Britain, including farming practices, proto-industrial activities and urbanisation.
  • Theoretical approaches to landscape, place, memory and identity.
  • Everyday landscapes and the household, gender relations, the material and spatial configurations of dwelling.
  • Landscape and memory, the uses of the past in the past; patterns of appropriation, re-interpretation and re-use; the identification and treatment of material mnemonics; the embodied experiences of landscape, boundaries and boundedness, oral narratives, everyday knowledge and practices of place. 


Research collaborations

I am currently collaborating on two large, multi-disciplinary research projects: 

The Past in its Place (ERC 2012-2017), led by Prof Philip Schwyzer (English, Exeter)

Stories of Change: exploring energy and community in the past, present and future (AHRC 2014-2017), led by Dr Joe Smith (OU)

Previous project collaborations include:

Journeys through Environmental Change: Narratives by and for Communities (2013). Project development grant awarded by the AHRC to build an interdisciplinary research collaboration dealing with issues of environmental change and sustainability through the arts and humanities.

Early Modern Discourses of Environmental Change and Sustainability (2010-11) funded by he AHRC AHRC Network. This included the organisation of three workshops exploring early modern responses and attitudes towards landscape, environmental change and meanings of sustainability.  Sustainable Households and Communities (Exeter, 2011); Sustainable futures: crisis management and the uses of the past (London, 2011); Past Environments and the Sustainable Future in Cornwall (Redruth, 2011). The project ended with a conference on Environment and Identity (Pendennis Castle, Falmouth, 2011)






Research supervision

I would be pleased to supervise anyone wishing to research the social, landscape and environmental history of the early modern and post-medieval period. I'm interested in a range of topics including theoretical approaches to landscape, place and belonging. Landscape and memory, and the uses of the past in the past. Farming practices and proto-industrial activities. Landscape representation, maps, literature. Household, gender relations and the history of everyday life. 


Other information


Co-director of the Centre for Environmental Arts and Humanities, Environment and Sustainability Institute, Cornwall Campus, University of Exeter 

Editorial Board Member of Landscapes, 2012 - date

Executive Committee Member, British Agricultural History Society, 2012 - date


Contribution to discipline

Member of the Executive Committe of the British Agricultural History Society (since 2012)

Member of the Executive Committee of the Devon and Cornwall Recod Society  

Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Landscapes.


I am originally from Norfolk. I studied as an undergraduate and postgraduate at the University of East Anglia in the School of History. My PhD thesis, supervised by Professor Tom Williamson, examined plebeian perceptions and experiences of the landscape in Norfolk villages between c.1500 and 1800. I was awarded my doctorate in 2006. My thesis formed the basis of my first book, Inhabiting the Landscape: Place, Custom and Memory 1500-1800 (2009). Since finishing my doctorate I worked with Professor Andy Wood (UEA) as his Research Assistant on an AHRC funded project investigating custom and popular memory in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In 2008 I was awarded a two year Early Career Fellowship by the Leverhulme Trust to carry out research on 'Landscape, Memory and Identity in Early Modern Wales'. I have also held a temporary full-time post as Lecturer in Early Modern History at Cardiff University (2007-08). In September 2009, I joined the University of Exeter as Lecturer in History.


Since 2009    University of Exeter, Senior Lecturer in Social History and Landscape History

2009-2010     University of Exeter, Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (2nd year) 

2008-2009     University of East Anglia, Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (1st year)

2007-2008     Cardiff University Lecturer in Early Modern History (fixed-term).

2004-2007     University of East Anglia, Postdoctoral Research Assistant on ‘Custom and popular senses of the past in early modern England’ under Prof. Andy Wood (AHRC).

2001-2005     University of East Anglia, AHRB Doctoral Studentship.