Chris Waters

Chris Waters

Hans W. Gatzke '38 Professor of Modern European History

Hollander Hall Rm 324

On Leave Spring 2024


B.A. California State University, Long Beach (1977)
M.A. Harvard University (1979)
Ph.D. Harvard University, History (1985)


Chris Waters is Hans W. Gatzke ’38 Professor of Modern European History. He received his BA in History from California State University, Long Beach and his MA and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He joined the History Department at Williams in 1989, where he has been teaching courses in modern British history, modern European history, gender and sexuality, and the philosophy of history. He has been an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at Stanford University and a fellow at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina and the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at University College, London. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and has served as vice president and president of the Northeast Conference on British Studies and director of the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University. He is the author of British Socialists and the Politics of Popular Culture, 1884-1914, co-editor of Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain, 1945-1964, and author of some thirty articles on various aspects of nineteenth- and twentieth-century British social and cultural history. His recent work focuses on the history of sexuality and the making of the modern self in Britain and he is currently at work on a book tentatively entitled “Queer in the Fifties: Three Lives”. His most recent sabbatical from Williams was spent in part as a Visiting Fellow at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia.

Selected Publications


Moments of Modernity: Reconstructing Britain 1945-1964, co-edited with an introduction by Becky Conekin, Frank Mort and Chris Waters (London: Rivers Oram Press; New York: New York University Press, 1999).

British Socialists and the Politics of Popular Culture, 1884-1914 (Stanford: Stanford University Press; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990).

Recent articles:

“Wilde in the Fifties”, in Kate Fisher and Rebecca Langlands, eds., Sex, Knowledge and Receptions of the Past (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

“Exeter College and Williams College – Some Connections”, in Exeter College: The First 700 Years (London: Third Millennium, 2013), 150-1.

“The Homosexual as a Social Being in Britain, 1945-1968”, Journal of British Studies 51, no. 3 (July 2012), 685-710.  Reprinted in Brian Lewis, ed., British Queer History: New Approaches and Perspectives(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), 188-218.

“Is There Still a Place for Social History?”, in Robert Gildea and Anne Simonin, eds., Writing Contemporary History (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), 1-22.

“Distance and Desire in the New British Queer History”, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 14, no. 1 (2008), 139-55.

“Beyond ‘Americanization’: Rethinking Anglo-American Cultural Exchange between the Wars”, introduction to an edited, special issue of Cultural and Social History 4 (December 2007), 451-9.

“The Heart in Exile: Detachment and Desire in 1950s London” (co-authored with Matt Houlbrook), History Workshop Journal 62 (Autumn 2006), 142-65.

“Sexology”, in H.G. Cocks and Matt Houlbrook, eds., Palgrave Advances in the Modern History of Sexuality (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 41-63.

“Autobiography, Nostalgia, and the Practices of Working-Class Selfhood”, in George K. Behlmer and Fred M. Leventhal, eds., Singular Continuities: Tradition, Nostalgia, and Identity in Modern Britain (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 178-95.

“Representations of Everyday Life: L.S. Lowry and the Landscape of Memory in Postwar Britain”, Representations 65 (Winter 1999), 121-50.

“Havelock Ellis, Sigmund Freud and the State: Discourses of Homosexual Identity in Interwar Britain”, in Lucy Bland and Laura Doan, eds., Sexology in Culture: Labelling Bodies and Desires (Cambridge: Polity Press; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 165-79.

“Dark Strangers in Our Midst: Discourses of Race and Nation in Britain, 1947-1963″, Journal of British Studies 36 (April 1997), 207-38.

Research Interests

Nineteenth and twentieth-century Britain.
History of sexuality.
Race and national identity in Britain.
Collective memory and the national past.
Philosophy of history.

Theses Advised

Jacob Posner ’23
Elegance, Pleasure, and Gender Disorder: Representing Men’s Fashion in Early Weimar Germany

Will Kingham ’22 A Creation of Memory: Commemorating Arthur Wharton, Victorian Sportsman

Kees Humes ’20 From Dishonest Immorality to Dangerous Contagion: Male-Male Sex Under Franco

Harmon Pardoe ’19 “Ihr gehört nicht dazu?” Citizenship and Belonging in Germany, 1990-2008

Andrew Wallace ’19 The Eldest Daughter of the Church: France, the Vatican, and the Memory of the Great War

Cleo Nevakivi-Callanan ’16 From Farewell to Welfare: Class Conflict, Social Policy, and Myth Formation During the Child Evacuations in Wartime Britain

Matthew Conway ’15 The Same Old Ways: Nazi Theater and Volkisch Cult

Perry Osgood ’15 A Song for Britain: The Eurovision Song Contest and the Cultural Politics of Popular Music in the United Kingdom, 1956-1979

Jennifer Potvin ’11Scaling the Wall: Division and its Opposition in Nicosia, Cyprus

Katie Johnson ’09Maleficent Eden: French Views of America and its Cultural Products in the Interwar Years

Katie Edgerton ’08Orange Disorder: Ulster Protestant Memory between Direct Rule and the Anglo-Irish Agreement

David Mathias ’08 (with Eric Goldberg) – The Pauper and the Peasant:  Poverty and Class in Carolingian Europe

Will Curtiss ’07Manufacturing Legitimacy: The Czechoslovak Exile Government in London, 1939-1945

Ikem Joseph ’06Scholar-Spies: Gertrude Bell and T.E. Lawrences Roles as Spies, Intellectuals, and Diplomats to British Affairs in the Middle East

Emma Golden ’06The 1944 Education Act in Britain