Professor Stephen Williams

Emeritus Professor of Human Geography

Justice, Security and Sustainability

I am a graduate in Geography from University College London and have devoted most of my professional career to teaching and research in universities and polytechnics. I came to Staffordshire in 1977 to take up a Lectureship in Rural Geography, rising eventually to the position of Head of Applied Sciences in 2004. In July 2012 I retired from this position but my conferment as an Emeritus Professor has enabled me to continue to work in the subject that has fascinated me throughout my life. Within Geography I am a specialist in the study of recreation and tourism, in which field I have written extensively, taught, and supervised doctoral and post-doctoral research.

Academic qualifications

PhD (University of Wales) awarded for work on “Tourism in Inland Wales”, 1976

B.Sc. (Hons) (London) in Geography, 1972


I am a specialist in the geography of recreation and tourism, but also have interests in the development and management of the British countryside

Research interests

Throughout my professional career my research interests have been concerned with developing the understanding of how people make use of their leisure time and how their leisure behaviours impact upon place and space. This has included periods of work studying the development of coastal resorts; patterns of outdoor recreation in urban conurbations; and recreational use of the countryside. Much of this work has been brought together in books that I have published since 1995.
Currently my research is focused on representations of tourist places in railway posters and guide books in Britain between 1920 and 1960, but previously I was engaged with a number of research projects relating to tourism, countryside management and social exclusion, briefly described as follows:

a) Tourism Geography

In 2009 I completed a commission from Routledge to produce a revised edition of a text I had originally published in 1998 on the theme of “Tourism Geography”. This is an advanced-level text that attempts to synthesise the diverse ways in which tourism is understood by geographers and how tourism shapes the world in which we live. The work has been translated into Chinese and an Arabic version is currently being negotiated.

b) An Interpretive Strategy for Cannock Chase AONB

In 2006 I successfully tendered for a contract from Staffordshire County Council to produce the final version of the Interpretive Strategy for Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This work has subsequently been incorporated into the Cannock Chase Management Plan where it influences directly how this important environment is presented to the public who visit.

c) Concepts in Tourism

In 2004 I completed a major commission for Routledge which entailed the compilation and editing of a four volume reference work titled 'Tourism: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences'. This involved reading and evaluating more than 700 published papers on concepts in tourism and the selection of 80 for reprinting in the edited collection. The finished work amounts to more than 1500 pages and has sold worldwide to library collections.

d) Tourism and Recreation

In 2003 I completed the writing of an undergraduate textbook titled 'Tourism & Recreation'. This is an intermediate level student text which explores the commonalities between tourism and recreation and was commissioned by Professor Stephen Page (now at the University of Stirling) This work was published by Pearson Education and has since been translated into Chinese for publication by the Yunnan University Press.

e) Urban Leisure and Social Exclusion

Between 1999 and 2001 I directed a two-year research project on 'Urban Leisure and the Geographies of Exclusion in the Post-Modern City'. This work was supported by the allocation of a Staffordshire University research grant of £40,000 to fund a Post-Doctoral appointment to the project. Dr Euan Hague (now at the University of Syracuse, USA) was appointed to the project and together with former colleague Chris Thomas, a series of refereed papers and conference presentations were written and published.

f) Visitor Management in Cannock Chase AONB

In 2000 I successfully tendered for a research contract offered by the Cannock Chase Partnership and funded by the Countryside Agency, to undertake a comprehensive survey of visitors to Cannock Chase and develop proposals for visitor management. Some 2000 users of Cannock Chase AONB were interviewed over a period of 12 months and I was responsible for project management and authored most of the subsequent report.



Williams, S. (2009) Tourism Geography: A New Synthesis, London: Routledge, 309pp

Williams, S. (ed.) (2004) Tourism: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences (Volume 1): The Nature and Structure of Tourism, London: Routledge, 383pp.

Williams, S. (ed.) (2004) Tourism: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences (Volume 2): The Experience of Tourism, London: Routledge, 381pp.

Williams, S. (ed.) (2004) Tourism: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences (Volume 3): Tourism, Development & Sustainability, London: Routledge, 401pp.

Williams, S. (ed.) (2004) Tourism: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences (Volume 4): Globalization and New Tourism Directions, London: Routledge, 345pp.

Williams, S. (2003) Tourism & Recreation, Harlow: Prentice Hall, 211pp.

Williams, S. (1998) Tourism Geography, London: Routledge, 212pp.

Williams, S. (1995) Outdoor Recreation and the Urban Environment, London: Routledge, 243pp.

Book Chapters

Williams, S. (2013) The art of the railway poster: travel, tourism and the visual representation of place in Britain, 1920-1955. In Rakic, T. and Lester, J. (eds.) Travel, Tourism and Art, Farnham, Ashgate Publishing.

Williams, S. (2004) “Theorising tourism: problems and challenges”. In Williams, S. (ed.) Tourism: Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences (Volume 1): The Nature and Structure of Tourism, London: Routledge, pp. 1-21.

Williams, S. (2002) 'Social Exclusion and Inequality'. In Rogers, A. & Viles, H. (eds.) The Student Companion to Geography, Oxford: Blackwell pp 143-7 (with Thomas, C.).


Hague, E., Thomas, C. and Williams, S. (2001) 'Exclusive Visions? Representations of Family, Work and Gender in the Work of the British Social Exclusion Unit', Gender, Place & Culture, Vol. 8 No. 1: 73-82

Hague, E., Thomas, S. and Williams, S. (2000) 'Political Constructions and Social Realities of Exclusion in Urban Leisure: the Case of Elderly Women in Stoke-on-Trent, England' World Leisure Journal, Vol. 42, No. 4: 4-13

Hague, E., Thomas, C. and Williams, S. (2000) 'Leisure and Exclusion: Power, Identity and the Boundaries of Participation' North West Geographer Vol. 3, No. 2: 3-12

Hague, E., Thomas, C. and Williams, S. (2000) 'Equity or exclusion? Contemporary experiences of post-industrial urban leisure'. In Brackenridge, C., Howe, D. and Jordan, F. (eds.) Just Leisure: Equity, Social Exclusion and Identity, Eastbourne: LSA: 17-34

Hague, E., Thomas, C. and Williams, S. (1999) 'Left out - reflections on the RGS-IBG Conference on Social Exclusion' Area Vol. 31 No. 3: 293-96

in the UK for Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal 4, Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023

for Career Prospects

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Facilities

Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2023

for Social Inclusion

The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023

of Research Impact is ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Very Considerable’

Research Excellence Framework 2021

of Research is “Internationally Excellent” or “World Leading”

Research Excellence Framework 2021

Four Star Rating

QS Star Ratings 2021