Whatley, Christopher


  • Emeritus Professor of Scottish History, Humanities
1977 …2023

Research activity per year

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 to 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).

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Strathclyde

Award Date: 1 Jan 1975

Bachelor of Arts, University of Strathclyde

Award Date: 1 Jan 1972


  • DAW Central Europe
  • Scottish
  • History
  • Literature


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