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Professor Chris Woolgar BA, PhD, Dip. Arch. Admin, FBA, FRHistS

Professor of History and Archival Studies, Fellow of the British Academy

Professor Chris Woolgar's photo

I read Archaeology and History at the University of Southampton, before training as an archivist at the University of Liverpool. My archival career saw me working with collections from the twelfth century to the present day, including the archives of two Oxford colleges (Magdalen and Corpus Christi), and the Wellington, Palmerston and Mountbatten papers and the archives of Anglo-Jewry in the University Library at Southampton – where I was archivist from 1982, and Head of Special Collections 1991-2013. I was appointed to a chair in History and Archival Studies in 2007 and transferred to what is now the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in 2013.

I have a long-standing interest in the history of the everyday, especially in the medieval period, in patterns of documentation and in editorial work. At Magdalen, I discovered some medieval domestic accounts, and subsequently did a doctorate at the University of Durham on the development of these records. Publications on medieval social and economic history include two volumes of household accounts edited for the British Academy’s Records of Social and Economic History series, an edition of the testamentary records of the bishops of England and Wales for the Canterbury and York Society, and three books with Yale University Press: The Great Household in Late Medieval England, The Senses in Late Medieval England, and The Culture of Food in England, 1200‒1500

States book cover

With Barbara Harvey, I have edited The States of the Manors of Westminster Abbey, c.1300‒1422, published by the British Academy in 2019 (Records of Social and Economic History, new series, 57‒58) – which prints 75 overall accounts for the properties of one of the greatest landowners of medieval England either side of the Black Death.

I have been the editor of the Journal of Medieval History since 2009 - the journal publishes articles on all aspects of the history of Europe and the Mediterranean from the fifth century to the start of the sixteenth. Submissions are welcome through the journal’s website.

I was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2020.


  • BA, Archaeology and History, University of Southampton 1978
  • Diploma in Archive Administration, University of Liverpool 1979
  • PhD, University of Durham, 1986

Research interests

People and Possessions in Late Medieval England

My current research centres on the objects of daily life, their significance and the meaning of material culture in the later Middle Ages. It focuses on the changes in mentality that came with a long-term social revolution. In England, in 1200, most people had few goods, and those they had were often intimately connected to individuals through custom and traditional links. By 1500, material possessions were everywhere. The elite had goods on an exceptional scale, and we have long, detailed inventories of them. Countrymen and urban craftsmen bequeathed lists of pewter tableware and metal cooking pots in a range of sizes, wardrobes of textiles and wooden furnishings; yet their ancestors, before the Black Death, had little in the way of metal domestic goods, probably few clothes, and little that would have been recognised as furniture. Objects and possessions are intertwined with the way people view themselves, and their social and cultural identities: these changes in the volume and range of goods people had were to transform medieval life. I am preparing a monograph on People and Possessions, and an edition of medieval Southampton wills. Recent publications include ‘Heirlooms and the Great Household’, and ‘What Makes Things Holy? The Senses and Material Culture in the Later Middle Ages’.

The Great Household in the Middle Ages

The medieval great household has long been central to my research. I have recently edited The Elite Household in England, 1100-1550, Harlaxton Medieval Studies XXVIII (Donington, 2018).

Food history

I co-ordinate the work of Diet Group, a seminar of historians, archaeologists and archaeological scientists, working on food in the medieval period. We are preparing a volume on Meanings of Food: Britain and Ireland in the Middle Ages.

Archival interests

There is a close link between archival work and my research interests – and I have published on forms of documentation and communication from accounts and wills, to correspondence, maps and political papers. I work with the University Library’s Special Collections Division to develop research and teaching linked to its holdings. We have recently launched a YouTube channel for a series of short videos based on the collections: ‘People, Papers and Pasts’.

PhD supervision

Medieval social and economic history; food history and culture; themes connected with the Library’s Special Collections; patterns of documentation and communication; editorial practices.

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Book Chapters



Chris currently teaches the following undergraduate modules:

Module convenor or co-covenor for:

HIST2094 Wellington and the War against Napoleon

HIST3242 Reading Histories

HIST6081 Research skills, Historiography and Dissertation Preparation



Current MPhil/PhD students:

  • Charlotte Scull: Bad Habits? Foodways of Religious Women in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval England (supervised jointly with Dr Gundula Müldner and Professor Roberta Gilchrist at the University of Reading) [Funder: AHRC]
  • Sheila Thomas: Eighteenth-Century Aristocratic Men and Domestic Music-Making
  • Zack White: Plunder, Provosts and Punishment: Discipline under Wellington’s command, 1808-1815 [Funder: University of Southampton]


Professor Chris Woolgar
Building 65 Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/2055

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