Professor David Higgins

Professor David Higgins


I joined the University of Leeds as Lecturer in 2006, was promoted to Associate Professor in 2012, and to Professor in 2020. I was Deputy Director of the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute from 2018 to 2021. I serve on the Executive Committee of the Priestley International Centre for Climate.

I have previously worked at institutions including the University of Cambridge, the University of Chester, and the University of York. I studied as an undergraduate at the University of Sussex and obtained my MA and doctorate from York.

Research interests

I am an environmental humanities researcher with a particular interest in the historical roots of our present-day ecological crisis. I currently work on two projects:

  1. The Butterbump. This practice research project will result in a book that mixes nature writing, philosophy, memoir, ecology, and cultural history, focused on the Eurasian bittern: a mysterious wading bird with a complex history. The project builds on my previous work towards the co-authored book, Modern British Nature Writing, 1789–2020 (CUP, 2022), which was the key output of the AHRC-funded Landlines Project.
  2. Climate Change and the Humanities. This project investigates the value of the humanities in addressing anthropogenic climate change. Outputs include a journal article on climate pessimism and a special issue on ‘Environmental Humanities Approaches to Climate Change’. I was recently awarded an AHRC-DFG grant for a collaborative project on climate change and cultural modelling, working with colleagues in the UK, Germany, and Austria.  

For much of my career, I worked mainly on Romantic literature and culture. Writing my book British Romanticism, Climate Change, and the Anthropocene (Palgrave, 2017) marked my shift of focus into the environmental humanities. It was supported by an AHRC Leadership Fellowship. Increasingly, I am motivated by the opportunity to engage broader audiences with pressing environmental issues. Both the Fellowship and the Landlines project involved a wide range of collaborations and public engagement activities, and contributed to Impact Case Studies for REF2021. 

Earlier projects include the monographs Romantic Genius and the Literary Magazine (2005) and Romantic Englishness (2014), a co-edited issue of the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies on 'Contesting Creativity' (2011), and the co-edited book Jean-Jacques Rousseau and British Romanticism (2017).

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • DPhil
  • MA in Representations and Contexts, 1750-1850
  • BA (Hons) English

Professional memberships

  • Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment
  • British Association of Romantic Studies

Student education

I have taught and convened a wide range of modules at Leeds, including large core literature modules and more specialist modules on Romanticism and/or literary ecologies. My research informs my teaching and I am committed to developing students as independent researchers.This commitment is reflected in my book Frankenstein: Character Studies (2008), and in two co-edited books: Studying English Literature (2010) and Teaching Romanticism (2010). I have also worked with the Higher Education Academy to organise a workshop on blended learning and to produce a report highlighting its use in English Studies. In 2012, I was awarded a University Student Education Fellowship. I have been involved in developing the School's teaching provision throughout my time at Leeds, including as Director of Taught Postgraduate Programmes, Director of Personal Tutoring and Employability, and as creator and convener of the Writing Mentors scheme.

Research groups and institutes

  • Environmental Humanities Research Group

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>