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Richard Trainor

Professor Sir Richard Trainor KBE FKC FAcSS FRHistS

Emeritus Professor of Social History

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Rick Trainor is a social historian of modern Britain who has also had a career as an academic leader in British universities.  Born, raised and (in part) educated in the United States, Rick was an undergraduate at Brown University. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford where, after a Master’s degree in History from Princeton, he obtained his doctorate in History.

In 1979 he became a lecturer at Glasgow University, where he later was Professor of Social History, Dean of Social Sciences and Vice-Principal. Between 2000 and 2014 he served as Vice-Chancellor of Greenwich University, and Professor of Social History there.  Between 2004 and 2014 Rick was Principal (with the additional title of President from 2009) and Professor of Social History at King’s College London.  Since 2014 he has been Emeritus Professor of Social History at King’s.

Since October 2014 Rick Trainor has been Rector (head) of Exeter College, Oxford. He is a member of the governing bodies of the Museum of London, the Royal Academy of Music and the University of Oxford.

Between 2007 and 2009 Rick was (alongside his King’s principalship) President of Universities UK, which represents the heads of all UK universities.  A dual citizen of the UK and the USA, he was awarded a knighthood for services to higher education in 2010.

In addition to extensive research and wide-ranging university teaching in history, Rick has also been heavily involved in computer-based university teaching in subjects related to history as well as in national initiatives to improve teaching more generally in higher education.

Rick is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences and of King’s College London and an honorary fellow of the Institute of Historical Research, of Merton College, Oxford and of Trinity College of Music.

Between 2013 and 2016 he was the elected President of the Economic History Society, the principal learned society in his field, economic and social history.  He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Glasgow, the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and the University of Kent.

Research interests

Rick Trainor’s published research has focused on 19th and 20th century British elites, especially in industrialised urban areas, on the middle class from which these leaders were largely drawn, and on their work in establishing and developing universities.  He is writing a book on the social and cultural evolution of the British middle class since 1850.


Rick Trainor’s publications include:


1. (With J. F. Munro and M. S. Moss), University, City and State:  The University of Glasgow on Gilmorehill since 1870 (Edinburgh University Press, 2000). ISBN 0-7486-1323-4

2.  Ed. (with R. J. Morris), Urban Governance: Britain and beyond since 1750(Ashgate Press, 2000). ISBN 0-7546-0015-7

3.  Black Country Elites: the exercise of authority in an industrialized area 1830-1900 (Oxford:  Clarendon Press, 1993), ISBN 0-19-820355-1.   

4.  Ed. (with E. Mawdsley, N. J. Morgan & L. M. Richmond), History and Computing III: Historians, Computers and Data: Applications in Research and Teaching (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1991).  ISBN 0-7190-3051-X


1.  ‘Conflict, Community and Identity in Victorian and Edwardian Urban Politics:  A Case Study of the Black Country’, in B.M. Doyle (ed.), Urban Politics and Space in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: Regional Perspectives (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2007), 30-46

2.  ‘The Social Impact of British Universities since 1850’, in F. Bosbach et al (eds.), Birth or Talent? The Formation of Elites in a British-German Comparison (Munich: K.G. Saur 2003), 217-228

3.  ‘The Middle Class’, in M.J. Daunton (ed.), Cambridge Urban History of Britain, vol.3, 1840-1950 (Cambridge University Press, 2000), 673-713

4.  ‘The “Decline” of British Urban Governance: A Reassessment’, in R.J.Morris and R.H. Trainor (eds.), Urban Governance: Britain and Beyond since 1750 (London: Ashgate Press, 2000), 28-46.


Dr Bernard Gowers wins King's Award

Dr Bernard Gowers wins King's Award for Excellence in Outreach & Widening Participation.

A red flag with the King's College London logo


Dr Bernard Gowers wins King's Award

Dr Bernard Gowers wins King's Award for Excellence in Outreach & Widening Participation.

A red flag with the King's College London logo