Whatley, Christopher


1977 …2019
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Personal profile


My academic title is Professor of Scottish History.

The field in which I specialise is Scotland's history from the seventeenth century - economic, social and political. A long standing interest has been Scotland's relationship with England and the rest of the UK, now and in the past. This work which is best represented in my award winning book The Scots and the Union, a new extended and revised edition of which was published by Edinburgh UP in 2014, prior the the Scottish independence referendum. This led me to delve more deeply into Whig ideology and culture and its impact. More recently I have been working on memorialisation in Scotland, and in particular how the memory of Robert Burns was fought over and secured in the century after his death in 1796. I have recently finished writing a book on Burns' legacy in Scotland, for John Donald/Birlinn, that was published late in 2016. 

As someone who left school at 16 and therefore entered academic life later than most of my contemporaries I’ve long recognised the transformational role that further and higher education can play in people’s lives. I believe too that universities have a responsibility to teach the virtues of academic rigour but also to create environments which enable students to maximise their potential after graduation.

Since returning to Dundee after a spell in St Andrews I’ve striven to enhance the reputation and standing of the University of Dundee. This I began by leading what was then the Department of History to become one of the best for teaching and research in Scotland.  Subsequently I’ve worked with colleagues from a wider range of disciplines at Dundee and other institutions in Scotland, the UK and overseas, to achieve academic excellence but wherever possible by engaging with the wider community which, after all, funds what we do in universities.


I’ve always been interested in Scottish history, although earlier in my career my specialism was economic history. Subsequently my interests have broadened to encompass social and political history, as well as aspects of Scottish literature. I’ve written about industry, work, labour organisation and popular protest, as well as about the ways this last was managed by urban rulers who feared the prospect of riotous mobs in their midst. This work is best represented in Scottish Society 1707-1830: Beyond Jacobitism, towards industrialisation (2000). 

I enjoy working with scholars from other disciplines, mainly art historians and literature specialists, and have published work on the Scottish novelist John Galt (most recently in The Edinburgh Companion to John Galt, 2017) and on Robert Burns – exploring how his memory was fixed, not only in print and through his numerous poet-disciples but also through festivals and in statues and other memorials.  

Much of my research effort in the past twenty years or so has been devoted to the history of everyday life in Scotland (I co-edited a four-volume series published by Edinburgh University Press).  

I am best known however for my work on the Union of 1707, its causes and its aftermath. This has appeared in several books, chapters in books and articles. The Scots and the Union (Edinburgh University Press, 2006) won the Saltire Society’s Scottish History Book of the Year award in 2007. In the light of the continuing interest there is in Scotland’s place within the UK, I wrote a new edition of the book, as well as adding a section on the Union today (The Scots and the Union: Then and Now (EUP, 2014). I continue to reflect upon and write on the subject, more often for the wider public.

This project has led me to explore what some historians have called anti-Jacobitism – that is what motivated supporters in Scotland of the Revolution of 1688-89, the Union and the Hanoverians, and what part they played in defending their cause against the Jacobites.  The first significant output from this research appeared in the Scottish Historical Review (April 2013).  

However following my involvement as co-investigator on the AHRC funded research project, led by Professor Murray Pittock at Glasgow, 'Robert Burns: Inventing Tradition and Securing Memory', I have been writing up some of the vast amount of data we collected. This has appeared in articles (2011, 2014, 2017) and chapters (2010, 2016, 2017) and in Immortal Memory: Burns and the Scottish People (2016).

Very recently I have begun to experiment with a new kind of history writing - blending autobiography, family biography and the long history of a small island off the island of Skye - Pabay. This has now been published: Pabay: An Island Odyssey (Birlinn, 2019).

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Strathclyde

Bachelor of Arts, University of Strathclyde


  • DAW Central Europe
  • Scottish
  • History
  • Literature

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics where Christopher Whatley is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

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Scotland Arts & Humanities
Historian Arts & Humanities
Robert Burns Arts & Humanities
Economics Arts & Humanities
Radicalism Arts & Humanities
Victorian Era Arts & Humanities
Commemoration Arts & Humanities
Parliament Arts & Humanities

Projects 2011 2014

Research Output 1977 2019

Pabay: An Island Odyssey

Whatley, C., Jul 2019, Edinburgh: Birlinn. 340 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Contested Commemoration: Robert Burns, Urban Scotland and Scottish Nationality in the Nineteenth Century

Whatley, C., 18 Jan 2018, Literature & Union: Scottish Texts, British Contexts. Carruthers, G. & Kidd, C. (eds.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 221-240 20 p.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Local History and the Nation: Commemorating Robert Burns, 1859-1914

Whatley, C., Jan 2017, In : Scottish Local History. 96, p. 3-9 7 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

The Insider's Eye in the Age of Improvement, Urbanisation, and Revolution

Whatley, C., May 2017, The International Companion to John Galt. Carruthers, G. & Kidd, C. (eds.). Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies, p. 82-97 16 p. (International Companions to Scottish Literature).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)

Immortal Memory: Burns and the Scottish people

Whatley, C. A., 6 Oct 2016, Edinburgh: Birlinn. 244 p.

Research output: Book/ReportBook

Activities 1986 2010

  • 14 Publication peer-review
  • 8 Editorial activity

Edinburgh University Press (Publisher)

Christopher A. Whatley (Editor)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

Dundee University Press (Publisher)

Christopher A. Whatley (Editorial board member)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

Scottish Historical Review (Journal)

Christopher A. Whatley (Editorial board member)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

Tuckwell Press (Publisher)

Christopher A. Whatley (Editor)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

Scotland's Story (Journal)

Christopher A. Whatley (Editor)

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity


Elite Identities in Scottish Family Group Portraits, 1740 - 1790

Author: Whiting, H., 2019

Supervisor: Whatley, C. (Supervisor) & Modeen, M. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Memories of the Struggle: Representations of Political Violence in the Highlands of Scotland and the Pacific Northwest of the United States

Author: Anderson, K., 2019

Supervisor: Modeen, M. (Supervisor) & Whatley, C. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Rural society in Scotland from the Restoration to the Union: challenge and response in the Carse of Gowrie, circa 1660-1707

Author: Young, M., 2004

Supervisor: Whatley, C. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Scottish Noblewomen, the Family and Scottish Politics from 1688-1707

Author: Cowmeadow, N. M., 2012

Supervisor: Patrick, D. (Supervisor) & Whatley, C. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


‘There is only one P in Perth - And, it stands for Pullars!': the Labour, Trade-Union, and Co-operative Movements in Perth, c. 1867 to c. 1922

Author: Philippou, P. S., 2015

Supervisor: Kenefick, W. (Supervisor) & Whatley, C. (Supervisor)

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy