Dr John Langton

Emeritus Research Fellow

Emeritus Research Fellow of St John's College, Oxford

Academic Profile

Dr John Langton joined the School of Geography and the Environment in 1980 as a lecturer in Geography and Fellow and Tutor in Geography at St John's College, Oxford. Prior to that he lectured at the University of Liverpool (1973-80), University of Cambridge (1968-73), where he was a fellow of St John's College, and University of Manchester (1966-68). He completed his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in geography at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, 1960-66. Since retirement from his university and college posts in 2009, Dr Langton has been an Emeritus Research Fellow at St John's College, Oxford. To mark his retirement, Dr Elizabeth Baigent and Prof. Robert Mayhew edited a collection of essays by some of his his ex-research students, published as English Geographies 1600-1950: Historical Essays on English Customs, Cultures and Communities in Honour of Jack Langton (St John's College, Oxford, 2009).

He has had a life-long interest in the development of geographical thought, and his earliest empirical research was on the geography of economic growth and urbanisation in the Industrial Revolution. From 1979-1994 his research shifted, in association with Prof. Göran Hoppe then of Stockholm University, to peasant farming systems in theory, and that of Sweden in particular. Since 1994, he has primarily been concerned with researching the historical geography of the forests of England and Wales, for which he held research grants from the Marc Fitch Fund and St John's College, Oxford, 2003-2009. Since 2003, this research has been assisted by Dr Graham R. Jones, who is a Senior Visiting Research Associate at the School of Geography and the Environment and manages the Forests and Chases of England and Wales website.

Dr Langton was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the IBG Historical Geography Research Group in 1990. His urban population data for Great Britain, 1801-1851, were entered onto the ESRC Social Data Service site as SN 7154 by Prof. Bob Bennett in 2012, and in January 2012 he was awarded an honorary Ph.D. by the University of Uppsala.

He is a member of the Editorial Board of Geografiska Annaler, Series B and a referee for: Yale University Press (2006), The Economic History Review (2004; 2005); English History Review (2010); Norsk Geologisk Tidsskrift (2005); Journal of Historical Geography (2005, 2012); Environment and Planning A (2005; 2006); Social Science History (2005), as well as Junior Research Fellowships at Christ Church, Oxford (2003) and Newnham, Cambridge (2005).

He has also been a referee for ESRC research grants (2002 and 2003), a end of award rapporteur for an ESRC project (2005) and a member of the ESRC project advisory panel (2003-07).

He has examined geography and history PhD students at Oxford (2006), Cambridge (2004) and Leicester (2007).

Dr Langton contributed to BBC Radio 4, 'Things we have forgotten to remember' presented by Michael Portillo, 18 Dec 2006, and BBC Radio 4, North and South: Across the Great Divide, presented by Ian Marchant, 28 Mar 2012.

Current Research

Dr Langton's research over the past decade or so has been concerned with discovering what happened to English forests and chases (that is, open land set aside by law for the preservation and hunting of deer and game) in early-modern times. In these legally defined areas, covering over half of many counties, law, land-use, social structuring, livelihood and culture interacted in a very distinctive way, but they have been almost completely neglected by research mainly concerned with the emergence of modern agriculture, industry and commerce, which were impossible in forests and chases. The book of 2005 listed below, comprising seminar papers given in 1998, contains chapters by Prof. Williams and Drs Baigent, Bendall, Freeman, Langton and Mayhew, all of the SoGE. It was severely delayed by the need to assemble introductory and contextual material almost from scratch, which has necessarily expanded to include medieval times and Wales and the Marches. Over 70 collaborators in and end-users of the research attended a conference in April 2005, and a day-long programme on Forests and Chases was held at the European Medieval Congress meeting in 2008. This resulted in the book of 2010 listed below. Meanwhile, a gazetteer and interactive cartographic database have been initiated with Dr Graham Jones, and the website Forests and chases of England and Wales: towards a multidisciplinary survey has been developed to encourage interest in the topic.


Dr Langton lectured on feudalism and the emergence and spread of capitalism for the 'Ecology, Resources and Societies' course of the Preliminary Examination; on 'From texts about the world to the world as text' for the Final Honour School, and taught the Special Subject course 'The Historical Geography of England c.1650- c.1800', and took fieldweeks to record offices every two years.

Dr Langton taught two classes on 'Enlightenment and Romanticism' for the MSc in Nature, Society and Environmental Policy.