Spotlight on Richard Whatmore
April 18, 2014 Leave a comment
Richard Whatmore joined St Andrews last year from the University of Sussex, where he was Professor of Intellectual History. He was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and brought up in Durham. He attended Framwellgate Moor Comprehensive School, read History at Cambridge, spent a year at Harvard after graduation, and returned to Cambridge to complete a PhD on eighteenth and nineteenth-century political economy under the supervision of Istvan Hont. Without publications or a PhD (it would not happen these days!) he was appointed to a lectureship in Intellectual History at Sussex in 1993, working with Donald Winch, Brian Young, John Burrow and later Knud Haakonssen, all of whom, Richard says ‘were the best of mentors and colleagues.’
At Sussex he was Head of History for three years and Director of the Sussex Centre for Intellectual History. He has also undertaken administrative duties for the publishers Elsevier, as chair of humanities journals for SCOPUS, and for Taylor and Francis, as editor for the journal of the History of European Ideas for more than a decade. At St Andrews Richard has helped to establish the Institute of Intellectual History, which he currently directs. The Institute is already home to several research projects and the expectation is that it will become a home for intellectual historians across St Andrews and beyond.
In terms of his research, Richard has written about the consequences for European political thought of the rise of commercial empires such as Britain and France from the end of the seventeenth century. He thinks that political thought becomes dull when it does not encompass issues of theology, political economy and international relations. Accordingly he is interested in the decline of the Calvinist trading centres that were too small to thrive in a world of aggressive economic imperialism. He has argued that, among other things, the decline in such places contributed to the development of the French Revolution. His most recent book is titled Against War and Empire. Geneva, Britain and France in the Eighteenth Century (Yale University Press, 2012).
Richard met his wife, the sociologist Ruth Woodfield, at Sussex, and their three boys were born in 1999, 2002 and 2003. They also have three cats and two dogs. His activities beyond work tend to involve his family. He is a practitioner of the Korean martial art Soo Bahk Do, likes Thai Boxing, playing soccer, and walking the unruly hounds on large expanses of beach.