Mansfield College, Oxford, is making history with the appointment of cultural historian Matt Cook as the UK’s first fully endowed professor of LGBTQ+ history. Supported by a generous £4.9 million donation from the Arcadia Fund, this prestigious post, named the Jonathan Cooper chair of the history of sexualities, marks a significant milestone in academic recognition for LGBTQ+ studies. Cook, known for his extensive research on queer urban life, the Aids crisis, and queer domesticity, is set to begin his role later this year, bringing his expertise and passion to the forefront of historical scholarship.
With a background in literary and cultural theory, Cook has a deep interest in queer urban, public, and community history. His previous collaborations include projects with notable organizations like the National Trust and Heritage England. Cook’s involvement with the National Trust’s Prejudice and Pride year in 2017 and his co-authorship of the associated LGBTQ+ guidebook showcased his commitment to preserving and sharing LGBTQ+ narratives. As he transitions from his 18-year tenure at Birkbeck, University of London, where he held the position of professor of modern history and led the gender and sexuality studies MA program, Cook eagerly anticipates advancing Oxford’s reputation as a pioneer in cutting-edge LGBTQ+ research.
The newly endowed professorship is named in honor of Jonathan Cooper, a prominent human rights lawyer and tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Cooper’s invaluable contributions to issues such as trans rights, conversion practices, and the rights of individuals living with HIV left an indelible mark on the community. By assuming the Jonathan Cooper chair, Cook sees this prestigious role as a means of honoring Cooper’s legacy and furthering his mission. Mansfield College’s principal, Helen Mountfield, expressed her confidence in Cook’s ability to thrive within the college’s inclusive and nonconformist environment, noting how Jonathan would have been deeply honored to witness his legacy commemorated through this endowed professorship.
The appointment of Matt Cook as the endowed professor of LGBTQ+ history is set to inspire and empower students and colleagues at Oxford. As Rob Iliffe, the history faculty board chair, affirms, Cook’s presence will contribute to Oxford’s esteemed standing as a leader in LGBTQ+ history research. This landmark appointment not only strengthens the academic field but also reflects the growing recognition and importance of LGBTQ+ studies within broader historical narratives. Through his pioneering research, Cook endeavors to shed light on the rich LGBTQ+ past, emphasizing its relevance in shaping the present and future.