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Professor Robert Mayhew

Professor Robert Mayhew

Professor Robert Mayhew
B.A., D.Phil.(Oxon.), Ph.D.(Cantab.)

Professor of Historical Geography and Intellectual History

Area of research

Research Profile

Office 2.19n
University Road,
Clifton, Bristol BS8 1SS
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+44 (0) 117 331 7307


My main areas of research interest to date have been twofold. First, deriving from my doctoral work in Oxford, I am interested in the ways in which landscape was represented in English literature. I have sought to show in a number of articles the extent to which landscape was a theological category in eighteenth century thought. This work has led me to write about a range of canonical authors in the “long” eighteenth century including Addison, Pope, Fielding, Gilpin and Radcliffe.My main focus, however, has been on the work of Samuel Johnson, and this has resulted in a monograph with Palgrave, Landscape, Literature and English Religious Culture, 1660-1800 (2004).

Second, my interest in the eighteenth century led me to a concern with the history of geography in early modern England. This was the main project I pursued during my time in Cambridge and has been my main area of research ever since. I have concentrated on seventeenth and eighteenth century British geographical writings for the most part, with some excursions into the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, this range being fully exemplified in a monograph on the topic, Enlightenment Geography (2000).

At present I am writing a book, provisionally entitled Untimely Prophet, about the intellectual history of Thomas Robert Malthus and the reception of Malthusianism from 1798 to the present day for Harvard University Press. Malthus is key to the emergence of recognisably "modern" debates about the nexus between resources, population and economic decision making, and to recover his thought and the debates which have surrounded it is vital if we want to make historically-informed choices in the present day. The British Academy have geneously awarded me a Senior Research Fellowship for the academic year 2011-12 to pursue the completion of this book.


Robert Mayhew took a BA and D.Phil in Geography at Oxford (Hertford and St John's Colleges). He then held a British Academy Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and taught in the Department of Geography. He spent five years as a lecturer at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth before moving to Bristol as a Reader in 2005. He was promoted to a personal chair in 2008. Robert is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Robert has held research grants and fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy, including being awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2007. 

Robert has published three monographs to date investigating the genealogies of various geographic concepts and categories. Enlightenment Geography (2000) attended to the nature of geographical writing, 1650-1850; Landscape, Literature and Religious Culture (2004) scrutinised the concept of landscape in the "long" eighteenth century with a particular focus on Samuel Johnson; and Malthus (2014) offered an analysis and reception history of the life and legacies of Thomas Robert Malthus.  Beyond this, Robert has edited and co-edited three books and published over sixty essays and articles. Robert was the book reviews editor for H-Net's historical geography network and also edited two monograph series for IB Tauris and Ashgate. Robert is a regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement and the Literary Review

Current research directions include a major new project studying the intellectual history of British migration from 1793 to the present day, funded by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2020-23), and work on Robert Wallace, population thinking and the Scottish Enlightenment, funded by the British Academy and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. 


I teach a wide range of courses around historical geography, the history and nature of geography and qualitative methods in human geography from 1st year undergraduate through to masters level. I also welcome doctoral research students interested in the history of geographical thought broadly conceived.


  • Historical Geography History of Geography Landscape studies Environmental History

Recent publications

View complete publications list in the University of Bristol publications system


Professor Mayhew currently teaches 3 courses:

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