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Professor Tim Butler

Professor Tim Butler

Tim ButlerEmeritus Professor


Department of Geography 
King's College London 
Strand Campus 
WC2R 2LS    





Tim Butler graduated from the University of Essex in 1971 in Sociology and returned there later to gain an MA in Social History with a dissertation on working class nutrition in London at the end of the nineteenth century. He undertook research for his PhD at the Open University during the late 1980s on the gentrification of Hackney identifying a section of the ‘new’ middle class who appeared to make a positive choice to live in what was one of the more deprived areas of London rather than because they simply could not afford to live in posher areas. This work on the middle classes and the choices they make about where to live has continued to be his main interest of work. 

More recently this has encompassed the area of education and how they choose schools and the ways they see these strategies through. He has had four large grants from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to investigate these research questions, the most recent of which is being undertaken with Goldsmith, LSE and York on the ‘super rich’. He previously worked with Professor Gary Bridge at Bristol University and Professor Marie-Hélène Bacqué at the University of Nanterre in Paris on an ESRC-ANR grant on social mixing in London and Paris. Before that he held an ESRC grant Chris Hamnett in the Department on the issues of education, ethnicity and gentrification in East London, an area until recently that has not been favoured by the middle classes. In addition to journal articles, he has authored two books on the gentrification of London, one on social inequality (with Paul Watt) and more recently (Chris Hamnett) a book on East London (Ethnicity, Class and Aspiration: understanding the new East London) . He has edited two collections on the regeneration of East London, a collection on the middle classes (with Mike Savage) and also most recently (with Gary Bridge and Loretta Lees Mixed Communities: Gentrification by Stealth). He chaired the editorial board of the journal Sociology from 2001-04. In 2005 he was invited to Sciences Po as a visiting professor and returned there as the Vincent Wright Professor in 2011 for a semester. He is currently on the editorial board of the International Journal of Urban and Rural Research (IJURR). Before joining King’s College London, he was Professor of Urban Sociology at the University of East London.

Research interests
  • education in the city
  • social mixing
  • gentrification
  • regeneration of East London
  • social class in British society

The main focus of my research over the past 25 years has been with issues of gentrification in London and middle class formation more generally. I originally undertook PhD research into gentrification in Hackney in the 1980s; this research was published as in 1997 as Gentrification and the Middle Classes in which I argued that there were important emerging differences amongst the middle class in London and these manifested themselves by how and where people made choices to live. In other words, residential choice was not simply determined by economic and housing market factors but was also determined by other factors such as a wish to live with ‘people like us’. I explored many of these issues about an emerging and changing middle class in Social Change and the Middle Classes (co-edited with Mike Savage) which brought together leading writers from sociology and human geography and was published in 1995.

In the late 1990s, with a grant from the ESRC Cities Programme, I undertook a more extensive investigation of gentrification in inner London both north and south of the River Thames and also in Docklands. In this work, which was undertaken with Garry Robson, we identified a specifically metropolitan habitus which distinguished those middle class people choosing to live in inner London from those living elsewhere and, at the same time, we argued that there were a series of ‘mini habituses’ across inner London housing markets which catered for different sub groups within this essentially metropolitan middle class. Drawing on work by Pierre Bourdieu, we argued that these housing choices reflected different deployments of economic, social, cultural and symbolic capital and, once again, the differences could not be explained simply in terms of relative wealth. This work was published in a book co-written with Garry Robson, 'London Calling: The middle classes and the remaking of inner London'.

Following a move to King’s College London, I am currently co-directing (with Professor Chris Hamnett) an ESRC funded project on gentrification in East London. This project is an investigation into whether there is a process of ethnic minority gentrification occurring in East London and further explores what are the implications of schooling for how people make choices about where to live – or how schooling influences housing choice. This project therefore brings together a number of longstanding interests not just in gentrification and the middle classes but also in East London (on whose regeneration I have edited two books) and education about which I am also writing increasingly.

My most recent book (co-authored with Paul Watt) appeared in 2006 and is entitled Understanding Social Inequality and argues that both space and social factors need to be understood as constituting social inequality; in particular, it argues that social class which has to some extent been ‘dropped’ by sociologists has a continuing relevance.


The Middle Classes in the City: social mix or just ‘people like us’: A comparison of Paris and London’. P1 Gary  Bridge (Bristol), Co-I Tim Butler ESRC £500,000 joint ESRC-ANR grant scheme (2010 - )

‘Gentrifiation and Social Mixing’ ESRC seminar series with Professor Loretta Lees, Professor Gary Bridge (Bristol) and Dr Tom Slater (Edinburgh) c£18,000 (2007- )

Joseph Rowntree Foundation (with Dr Margaret Byron and Professor Chris Hamnett) ‘Ethnic diversity and dynamics in the housing market’ £41,869 (2006-)

ESRC (with Professor Chris Hamnett) ‘Gentrification, ethnicity and education in East London’ RES-000-23-0793 c£222,000 (2005-)

STINT programme (Funding Council, Sweden) for collaborative seminars on East London and Stockholm c£33,000 (with University of Uppsala and London Metropolitan) (2000-04) 

ESRC Cities: Competitiveness and Cohesion Programme award for a study of ‘The Middle Classes and the Future of London’ c£85,000 (1998-2001) 

PhD students

Current students


Sophie Elsmore
'Part and Parcel of Planning’: Planning Gain, the Planning System and Property Development

Sol Gamsu
Metropolitan and provincial circuits of education? Comparing classed pathways through changing institutional fields of education in Sheffield and London.

Qing Huang 
Post political change and urban renewal in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China 

Julia Nast 
The neighbourhood they live in? Localised organisational habitus and neighbourhood inequality in child related organisations in Berlin, Germany

Susan Steward 
Growing up in North Norwich: Influences of local neighbourhood and secondary school on young people during their teenage years 

Viktoria Vona 

The role of art and artists in contesting gentrification in London and New York City  



Dr Juliet Kahne

Re-Imaging London: global city planning and skyscraper development Gentrification in the ‘exceptional city’: the case of Silver Lake in Los Angeles(Awarded 2014) 

Dr David Craggs

Re-Imaging London: global city planning and skyscraper development (Awarded 2013) 

Dr Sarah Pellegrin

Integrating urban design and peacekeeping principals for regenerating the urban environment following violent conflict (Awarded 2012)

Dr Adriana Soaita 

A comparative analysis of the nature and extent of housing problems and resident responses in two forms of Romanian urban housing (Awarded 2011) 
Currently: Research Fellow, University of St Andrews

Dr Alan Mace 

London’s Inter-War Suburbs: constructing a sense of place in a mega-city region (Awarded 2010) 
Currently: Lecturer in urban planning LSE

Impact, innovation and outreach

Professional Associations


  • Academician – Academy of Social Sciences (elected 2009)

  • Institute of British Geographers/Royal Geographical Association



  • Trustee and Treasurer: Foundation for Urban and Regional Studies (2009-)
  • Board Member Research Committee 21 International Sociological Association ‘Sociology of Urban and Regional Development’ (2006-10)



  • Board London Journal (2008-)
  • Chair Editorial Board Sociology (2002-2005)
  • Elected to Editorial Board Sociology (1999-2002)
  • Founding Editor Rising East: the Journal of East London Studies (1997-2001)



  • Journals: Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Antipode, Environment and Planning A & D; British Journal of Sociology; International Journal of Urban and Regional Research; Urban Studies; Housing Studies; Sociological Review, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Geografiska Annaler, Geography Compass, Sociological Review Online, 
  • Publishers: Macmillan; Sage; Routledge; Palgrave
  • Grant applications and reports: ESRC, Leverhulme Foundation, British Academy

Book reviews


  • Housing Studies
  • Sociology
  • Progress in Human Geography
  • British Journal of Sociology
  • Urban Studies
  • Antipod
  • International Journal of Urban and Regional Research



BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowed, Learning Curve, Analysis, More or Less and BBC Radio London


For a full list of publications, please visit Professor Butler's research profile.


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