UK’s first Professor of LGBTQ+ History at University of Oxford
Thursday 1st Jun 2023, 12.58pm
Taking up his post in October, Professor Cook will lead and expand the study and teaching of LGBTQ+ history at Oxford University, after 18 years at Birkbeck College where he led the Gender and Sexuality Studies MA programme, and directed the Raphael Samuel History Centre. He is a social and cultural historian with a strong interest in cross-disciplinary work and queer urban, public and community history. In 2017, Professor Cook co-authored the National Trust’s first LGBTQ guidebook, Prejudice and Pride, and he has advised on a range of other museum and heritage projects. He has written extensively on queer urban life, the AIDS crisis and queer domesticity, and his most recent book, Queer Beyond London (2022), arose out of a collaborative project anchored in LGBTQ+ community and local history, focusing on Brighton, Leeds, Manchester, and Plymouth.
The Chair has been named in honour of the late Jonathan Cooper OBE, an inspiring human rights lawyer, tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, and commentator on issues such as trans rights, conversion therapy and the rights of people living with HIV, who passed away in 2021.
This Professorship is the first fully-endowed specialist post of this type in the UK, made possible by a £4.9 million gift to Mansfield College from Arcadia.
Mansfield College and the History Faculty are seeking to build on this great generosity, to attract further philanthropic support to create a new Research Cluster in LGBTQ+ history at Oxford, including graduate scholarships and a new Career Development Fellowship, so that recognising, recording, and understanding LGBTQ+ stories and lives becomes a central part of university history teaching and research, in Oxford and internationally.
Mansfield College Principal, Helen Mountfield KC, said: ‘Mansfield College is delighted to welcome Professor Matt Cook as the inaugural Jonathan Cooper Chair of the History of Sexualities. Matt will be a great fit in our proudly non-conformist college community which respects, protects and promotes a diverse range of voices and narratives.
‘I know that Jonathan would have been so honoured and delighted to see his legacy commemorated by this Chair, and I know he would have been fascinated by Matt’s work. I am hugely grateful to Arcadia for endowing this post, so that it will be part of Mansfield College forever.’
Rob Iliffe, History Faculty Board Chair, said: ‘The History Faculty is thrilled that Prof. Matt Cook has accepted the invitation to be the first Jonathan Cooper Professor of the History of Sexualities. Matt is an outstanding historian who has published a series of influential works on sexuality and gender in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain. Over the last two decades he has played a key role in making Birkbeck a major centre for the study of queer history, and he will bring his unrivalled experience and energy to his post at Oxford.
‘His presence will be a source of inspiration to students and colleagues alike, and it will enhance Oxford’s reputation as a leader in the field of LGBTQ history. The Faculty is very grateful to Arcadia, for their exceptional generosity in endowing a post that serves as a fitting tribute to the life and work of Jonathan Cooper.’
Commenting on his appointment, Professor Cook said: ‘Jonathan Cooper was a passionate advocate for LGBTQ rights, and it’s a huge honour to take up this new professorship in his name. I will be working hard to enhance our understanding of the LGBTQ past and to show how these histories matter now. I will be championing the strong, existing vein of queer historical work at Oxford and fostering debate with LGBTQ scholars, writers, and activists from around the world.
‘I’m tremendously excited to have this opportunity to help enlarge Oxford’s reputation for cutting edge work in this burgeoning field; I see it as a way of honouring and furthering Jonathan Cooper’s inspirational legacy.’