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Photo of Professor Nicola Whyte

Professor Nicola Whyte

Associate Professor

01326 253799

01326 253799

My background is in the landscape archaeology and social history of the post-medieval period (c.1500 to the present) in Britain. I work on the long-term history of landscape and environmental change exploring the impact of human activities in altering the Earth. In recent years my research has developed in alignment with the emergent interdisciplinary and international field of environmental humanities. I am interested in crossing borders, troubling categories and decolonising conventional approaches to research and teaching. I bring together subjects – histories of land, water and subterranean - that are more typically kept separate in academic writing. My work draws on theoretical approaches to landscape, place, memory, materiality and environment. Histories of everyday life, knowledge making, practices of dwelling and environmental change inform my reflections on the past and present and possible future of landscape and humanity.

 

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

 

I am Co-Director of the Centre for Environmental Arts and Humanities. For further information including publications and events see http://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/research/centreforenvironmentalartsandhumanities/, and the forthcoming Earth Humanities Global Network website. 

 

 

 

Research interests

My research lies the interface of early modern social history and post medieval landscape studies and is concerned with threee 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.

The third significant strand of my research brings my research on the early modern and post medieval periods to bear upon current debates on climate change and environmental precarity. 

  • Environmental humanities research. Processes of extraction and reconstitution of the tangible and intangible elements that both form and inform our being in the world. Historical and feminist approaches.
  • Landscape and environmental history of Britain, including farming practices, proto-industrial activities and urbanisation. The commons and enclosure. Boundaries and boundedness. Time deepend understanding of anthropogenic environmental change. 
  • Theoretical approaches to landscape, environment, place, memory and identity. Everyday landscapes, the household, gender relations, embodied experince, movement, dwelling, the more-than-human world.
  • Landscape and memory, the uses of the past in the past; patterns of appropriation, re-interpretation and re-use; embodied experiences of landscape, boundaries and boundedness, oral narratives, everyday knowledge and practices of place. 

Research collaborations

Recent individual and collaborative research projects include:

Earth Humanities Global Network (2021): funded by the University of Exeter's Global Partnerships Fund. Bringing together environmnetal humanities and environmental sciences research across local and global scales. 

Time and Tide (ongoing): an interdisplinary collaboration with Dr Kate Moore (CSM) and Dr Gill Juleff (Archaeology) on mining history and future heritage. Look out for our annual Heritage on the Beach events at Perranporth (Cornwall), supported by the Annual Fund.

ERC The Past in its Place: locating the history of memory in England and Wales (2011-16 see http://pastplace.exeter.ac.uk/) explores 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.

AHRC Stories of Change: exploring energy and community in the past, present and future (2014 -18) we formed a large-scale multidisciplinary research project working in collaboration with community arts organisations, artists and performers on the past, present and future of energy.

GW4 Environmental Humanities Group (2014) with Dr Ria Dunkley (Geography, Cardiff), Dr Marianna Dudley (History, Bristol), Prof. Peter Coates (History, Bristol) and Prof. Axel Goodbody (Literature, Bath).

AHRC 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.

AHRC Early Modern Discourses of Environmental Change and Sustainability (2010-11) AHRC Landscape Programme Network Grant with Dr. Ayesha Mukherjee (English, Exeter). 

Leverhulme Trust: Landscape, memory and identity in Wales, c.1500-1750. Early Career Fellowship (2008-10).

 

 

 

 

 

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  http://www.exeter.ac.uk/esi/research/ceah/ 

Editorial Board Member of Landscapes http://www.maneypublishing.com/index.php/journals/lan, 2012 - date

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

 

Contribution to discipline

Member of the Editorial Board of the journal of Rural History

Member of the Executive Committe of the British Agricultural History Society http://www.bahs.org.uk (since 2012)

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

Member of the Editorial Board of the journal Landscapes.

Teaching

Over the years I have been nominated for a number of teaching awards by the Student Guild. Here is a sample of the wonderful feedback I have recieved from students, from last year (2019/20). 

 

Inspirational Teaching

I can't think of one lecture of Nicola's that I didn't enjoy during the Landscape History module. On the days of her lectures I would be in until 6pm and I would often show up already exhausted, but her charisma and passion for her subject just totally rubbed off on me and kept me going. I found myself completely immersed in the subject within the first 5 minutes of each lecture. Her seminars are so relaxed and hands-on; I think the seminar where we put together maps to see what they could tell us is actually the most memorable seminar I've ever been in. The module was developed by Nicola to accommodate the desire for more field trips, and being able to go out to areas of Cornwall and explore them is unlike any opportunity offered by any other module. Nicola's guidance and insight, as well as the resources she provided and talks she organised, only made these trips all the more enriching. Equally her enthusiasm, friendliness and ensuring that she had asked everyone how they were that day made being on campus at 9am seem not so bad. The idea of landscape history has gone from something I thought I would find quite boring to one I'm considering doing my dissertation on, and I owe that fully to Nicola. Her passion for her subject carries off more than I have experienced with any other lecturer, and this has inspired me to pursue it even further.”

 

“Nicola Whyte always strives to teach us historians in a way to fully engage with the specific topic. Her clear and passionate interests in Social History has allowed for everyone to enjoy and familiarise themselves with an interesting perspective of history”

 

Extra Mile Award

“N has provided excellent support as a tutor and supervisor to both me and numerous other students. I know I am not alone in complementing her caring attitude toward our studies and our general wellbeing. As a tutor, we have all enjoyed the positive energy she brings to every lecture and seminar, no matter what time of day, and it certainly lifts everyone’s moods and encourages greater engagement in the subject. N also always ensures that everyone has access to print-offs of the sources and this seemingly small action is greatly appreciated. N always makes herself available for students, often adding additional hours to her office hours to ensure everyone is able to have a good amount of time to discuss whatever they need to with her. Even during covid-19 she kindly had many Skype calls with individuals and I know this access to her greatly reduced the stress we were experiencing as third years trying to complete our degrees from our homes. N personally gave me great academic and pastoral support over these Skype calls and I really appreciated them during this unprecedented time.
I have been lucky to have had N as a tutor throughout all my three years at Exeter University and I have benefitted from her support on my assignments through to my dissertation and it has always been equally thorough no matter what stage of my degree. As a dissertation supervisor she was always concerned with how I was managing my stress and she took an interest in my welfare which I really appreciated. N made sure I did not give up when I felt pessimistic about my dissertation and through conversations with her I felt my enthusiasm for and engagement with the subject grow. I faced a few issues in the months leading up to my dissertation hand in and I truly believe that N's support was instrumental in helping me complete my dissertation. Throughout my whole three years she has been reliable, hard-working, positive and caring and I know that myself and many other students have truly enjoyed learning with N.”

Modules taught

Biography

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.

Summary

Since 2009    University of Exeter, Senior Lecturer in 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.