Unlocking the Church (Oxford University Press, 2017)
The Victorians built tens of thousands of churches in the hundred years between 1800 and 1900. Wherever you might be in the English-speaking world, you will be close to a Victorian built or remodelled ecclesiastical building. Contemporary experience of church buildings is almost entirely down to the zeal of Victorians such as John Henry Newman, Samuel Wilberforce and Augustus Pugin, and their ideas about the role of architecture in our spiritual life and well-being.
In Unlocking the Church, William Whyte explores a forgotten revolution in social and architectural history and in the history of the Church. He details the architectural and theological debates of the day, explaining how the Tractarians of Oxford and the Ecclesiologists of Cambridge were embroiled in the aesthetics of architecture, and how the Victorians profoundly changed the ways in which buildings were understood and experienced. No longer mere receptacles for worship, churches became active agents in their own rights, capable of conveying theological ideas and designed to shape people's emotions.
These church buildings are now a challenge: their maintenance, repair or repurposing are pressing problems for parishes in age of declining attendance and dwindling funds. By understanding their past, unlocking the secrets of their space, there might be answers in how to deal with the legacy of the Victorians now and into the future.
Redbrick: A Social and Architectural History of Britain's Civic Universities (OUP Oxford, August 2016).
In the last two centuries Britain has experienced a revolution in higher education, with the number of students rising from a few hundred to several million. Yet the institutions that drove - and still drive - this change have been all but ignored by historians.
Drawing on a decade's research, and based on work in dozens of archives, many of them used for the very first time, this is the first full-scale study of the civic universities - new institutions in the nineteenth century reflecting the growth of major Victorian cities in Britain, such as Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham - for more than 50 years. Tracing their story from the 1780s until the 2010s, it is an ambitious attempt to write the Redbrick revolution back into history.
William Whyte argues that these institutions created a distinctive and influential conception of the university - something that was embodied in their architecture and expressed in the lives of their students and staff. It was this Redbrick model that would shape their successors founded in the twentieth century: ensuring that the normal university experience in Britain is a Redbrick one.
Using a vast range of previously untapped sources, Redbrick is not just a new history, but a new sort of university history: one that seeks to rescue the social and architectural aspects of education from the disregard of previous scholars, and thus provide the richest possible account of university life.
It will be of interest to students and scholars of modern British history, to anyone who has ever attended university, and to all those who want to understand how our higher education system has developed - and how it may evolve in the future.