Professor Sir Richard (‘Rick’) Trainor


Rick Trainor is a historian and academic leader.


He is Rector of Exeter College, Oxford (since October 2014) and Professor Emeritus of Social History at King’s College London (since August 2014).


An American by birth, upbringing and partly by education, he has pursued his career in the UK while maintaining active professional and personal links with the USA and with a number of other countries.


In the United States, he was an undergraduate at Brown and a graduate student (completing the first stage of the PhD with distinction, MA 1975) at Princeton. His education in the UK was at Oxford – as a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College where he completed a second B.A. in Modern History in 1973 and as a Student at Nuffield, where he worked on his thesis in modern British social history (D.Phil. 1982).


Having also been a junior research fellow at Wolfson, in 1979 he took up a lectureship at the University of Glasgow, where he was later professor of social history, dean of social sciences and vice-principal. From 2000 to 2004 he was Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Social History at the University of Greenwich. Between 2004 and 2014 he was Principal (with the additional title of President from 2009) and Professor of Social History at King’s College London.


Between 2007 and 2009 he was, alongside his role at King’s, President of Universities UK, the organisation that represents the heads of all UK universities. The role involved extensive connections with other countries, including joint convenorship of a study group on UK/US academic ties.   The UUK Presidency also led to membership of the Higher Education Task Force of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).


Heavily involved for many years in fundraising and alumni relations, he was awarded the 2011 Leadership Award of CASE (Europe), the major European organisation for fundraising in higher education.


He has published extensively on the composition and impact of elites in 19th and 20th century Britain, with particular attention to their role in industrialised areas, and he remains active in research, both on the social and cultural history of the modern British middle class and on British universities past and present. He is President of the Economic History Society (established 1926), a major learned society for economic and social history.


He has also undertaken much teaching and doctoral supervision. In addition, he has been heavily involved in local and national initiatives (such as the Computers in Teaching Initiative and Learning and Teaching Support Network) to promote improvement in university teaching and learning.


He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences, an honorary fellow of Merton College Oxford, the Institute of Historical Research and Trinity College of Music, and he holds honorary doctorates from the University of Kent, the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science and the University of Glasgow.


Rick is a dual citizen of the US and (since 2010) the UK. In 2010 he was made a KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire) for services to higher education.




Rick Trainor is a member of the following Governing Bodies:

rick trainorMuseum of London

Rick is a governor of the Museum of London, which deals with the whole of London, past and present, and is sponsored by the City of London and the Greater London Authority.


rick trainorEconomic History Society

As President (since 2013), Rick chairs the Council of the Society, which supports research and teaching in economic and social history, broadly defined. He was Honorary Secretary of the Society between 1998 and 2004.


royal academy of music rick trainorRoyal Academy of Music

Rick is a governor of this world-famous conservatoire, which was established in 1822.


rick trainorUniversity of Oxford

Rick is a member of the University’s governing body, the Council, which is responsible for Oxford’s academic policy and strategic direction, including its external relations.


rick trainor exeter collegeExeter College, Oxford

As Rector, Rick chairs the Governing Body of the College.


Rick is also a Liveryman and member of the Court of the Worshipful Company of Educators.


Rick previously was Chair of the London Metropolitan Network 2002-6, a member of the council of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (2006-11), and a member of the Joint Information Systems Committee 2001-5.



Rick Trainor is currently a fellow of the following organisations and institutions:

  • Fellow of The Academy of the Social Science

    academy of social sciences

    The Academy of Social Sciences is the National Academy of Academics, Learned Societies and Practitioners in the Social Sciences. Its mission is to promote social sciences in the United Kingdom for the public benefit.

  • Honorary Fellow of The Institute of Historical Research

    Institute of Historical Research

    The Institute of Historical Research is one of ten member Institutes of the School of Advanced Study, part of the University of London. Founded in 1921 by A. F. Pollard, the Institute of Historical Research (IHR) is an important resource and meeting place for researchers from all over the world.

    Rick chaired its advisory council between 2004 and 2009.

  • Fellow of The Royal Historical Society

    Royal Historical Society

    Since it was founded in 1868 the RHS has become the foremost society in the UK working with professional historians and advancing the scholarly study of the past. The RHS is predominantly a voluntary organisation with a revolving Council whose members offer dedicated service ensuring the smooth running and development of the organisation.

    Rick was an elected member of Council between 1998 and 2002.

  • Honorary Fellow of Merton College, Oxford

    Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 12.39.48

    Merton College is a vibrant and diverse intellectual community that has been at the forefront of education and research at Oxford University since 1264.

  • Honorary Fellow of Trinity College of Music

    Trinity college of music

    Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance is the UK’s only conservatoire of music and contemporary dance. Trinity Laban is a leader in music and contemporary dance education.

  • Patron, Anglo-American Fulbright Commission

    Fullbright Commission

    Created by treaty in 1948, the Fulbright Commission aims to foster cultural understanding through educational exchange in two ways: a prestigious awards programme and the EducationUSA advisory service.  

    Rick was a Commissioner between 2003 and 2009.




  • Black Country élites: the exercise of authority in an industrialised area, 1830–1900

    rick trainor

    Black Country Élites is a study of the people who ran Victorian industrial towns; it also examines the institutions, policies, rituals, and networks these urban élites deployed to cope with urban growth, social unrest, and relative economic decline. Concentrating on a particularly grimy district of the industrial Midlands, the book demonstrates the surprisingly great resources, coherence, sophistication and impact of the area's mainly middle class leaders, who were well linked to regional and national power centres.

    Richard H. Trainor Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993

  • University, city and state: the University of Glasgow since 1870

    This book is a scholarly history of the University of Glasgow since 1870. With the proceeds of the sale of its original city-center site to a railway company, the University of Glasgow moved to a magnificent neogothic new building at Gilmorehill in 1870. The history of the University in this new location then developed in conjunction with the evolution of the City of Glasgow, the Second City of the Empire, until both suffered the privations of two world wars and the long dislocation of the local economy from the 1920s.

      By Michael Moss, J. Forbes Munro and Richard H. Trainor Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press for the University of Glasgow, 2000

  • Urban governance: Britain and beyond since 1750

    rick trainor

    This set of essays on the theme of governance addresses a wide range of questions on the organisation and legitimation of authority. At the heart of the book is a set of topics which have long attracted the attention of urbanists and urban historians all over the world: the growth and reform of urban local government, local-centre relationships, public health and pollution, local government finance, the nature of local social élites and of participation in local government.

    Edited by Robert J. Morris and Richard H. Trainor. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000  

  • The Evolution of the British Middle Class since 1850

    (in preparation)

  • Essays/Articles (selected):

    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.

    5. ‘Neither Metropolitan nor Provincial: the Interwar Middle Class’, in A.Kidd & A.J.Nicholls (eds), The Making of the Middle Class? Studies of Regional and Cultural diversity since the Eighteenth Century (Aldershot: Sutton Publishing, 1998), 203-13.

    6. ‘The Elite’, in W.H.Fraser & I.Maver (eds.), Glasgow Volume II: 1830 to 1912 (Manchester University Press, 1996), 227-64.

    7. (with N.J. Morgan), 'Liberator or Libertine? The Computer in the History Classroom', in David S. Miall (ed.), Humanities and the Computer: New Directions (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 61-70

    8. ‘The Gentrification of Victorian and Edwardian Industrialists’, in A.L. Beier et al. (eds.), The First Modern Society: Essays in Honour of Lawrence Stone (Cambridge University Press, 1989), 167-97.

    9. articles in D.J. Jeremy & C. Shaw (eds.), Dictionary of Business Biography (London: Butterworths, 1984-5), vol. 1 91-6, vol.2 323-8, vol.3 209-16 & 261-8.

    10. ‘Urban Elites in Victorian Britain’, Urban History Yearbook (1985), 1-17.

    11. 'Peers on an industrial frontier: the Earls of Dartmouth and of Dudley in the Black Country, c.1810 to 1914', in D. Cannadine (ed.), Patricians, power and politics in nineteenth-century towns (Leicester University Press, 1982), 69-132.


What role should philanthropy play in British higher education?

Talk about the role of philanthropy in British higher education at the Oxford Centre for the Study of Philanthropy Seminars 2015/16.

700th Anniversary Lecture by Rector Sir Rick Trainor

Exeter College’s Rector, Sir Rick Trainor, gives the final 700th Anniversary Lecture to conclude the College’s septcentenary celebrations at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey, on 15 May 2015. The lecture was entitled “What has held the UK together and might keep it united in the future? A historian’s perspective.”


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Rick Trainor