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UK’s first professor of LGBTQ+ History appointed at Oxford University

Mansfield College Principal, Helen Mountfield KC (left) and Professor Matt Cook.

The University of Oxford has appointed the UK’s first permanently endowed professorship in LGBTQ+ History.

Renowned historian, Matt Cook, who has written extensively on queer urban life, the AIDS crisis and queer domesticity, will become the first Chair of the History of Sexualities at Oxford’s Mansfield College.

Taking up his post in October, Cook will lead and expand the study and teaching of LGBTQ+ history at Oxford, after 18 years at Birkbeck College where he led the Gender and Sexuality Studies MA programme, and directed the Raphael Samuel History Centre.

The Professorship is the first fully-endowed specialist post of this type in the UK, made possible by £4.9 million in funding from Arcadia, a grant-giving charitable foundation that works to preserve endangered cultural heritage, protect endangered ecosystems, and promote access to knowledge.

The role is named in honour of Jonathan Cooper OBE, a human rights lawyer, 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.

Championing LGBTQ+ scholars, writers, and activists

Professor Cook said of his appointment: “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.

Professor Matt Cook
Professor Matt Cook. Photo by Keiko Ikeuchi.

“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.”

Mansfield College Principal, Helen Mountfield KC (pictured, above left), said: “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.”

Rob Iliffe, History Faculty Board Chair, said: “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.”

Celebrating Pride Month – June 2023

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Photographs by Keiko Ikeuchi, Supplied by Mansfield College, University of Oxford.

Member of Campaign Collective, Social Media Editor of The Rooftop, and Rooftop TV host. Passionate campaigner for LGBTQI+ rights and mental health issues.