Smout taught at the University of Edinburgh, from 1959 until 1980. At Edinburgh, he rose steadily through the academic ranks in the Department of Economic History – as an Assistant Lecturer (1959–62), as a Lecturer (1962–64), and as a Reader (1964–70) before being appointed as Professor of Economic History in 1970.
Smout has written extensively on demographic history and many aspects of economic history. Since the mid-1990s, he has developed the new discipline of environmental history in Scotland, giving the Ford Lectures in Oxford in 1999, published under the title of Nature Contested, Environmental History in Scotland and Northern England since 1600. His most recent publications in this field have been in woodland history and an environmental history of the Firth of Forth. His focus extends beyond the purely academic. For example, Smout has argued that conservationists should judge species based on whether or not they are pests, ignoring their origins.
Smout used his position to argue in favour of reviving the title "Princess Lyon". He suggested that the Princess Royal should be known by this title when she is in Scotland, much in the same way her brother, the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall is traditionally identified as the Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick and Lord of the Isles when he is in Scotland.
Smout has also interested himself in small local issues.
Public service commitments
- St Andrews Centre for Advanced Historical Studies, 1992–97, Director.
- Institute for Environmental History, 1992–2001, Director.
- Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), 1991–97, Deputy chairman.
- National Museums of Scotland, Trustee.
- Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion Trust (SCAPE), Chairman.
- Institute of Scottish Historical Research, 2007.
- Historiographer Royal of Scotland, 1993.
- Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
- Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, 2002–5.
- Smout, Christopher (1963), Scottish trade on the eve of union, 1660–1707.
- ——— (1969), A History of the Scottish People 1560–1830.
- Smout, Christopher, ed. (1974), Essays in social history
- ——— (1977), Comparative aspects of Scottish and Irish economic and social history, 1600–1900.
- Smout, Christopher, ed. (1979), The Search for wealth and stability: essays in economic and social history
- ——— (1979), The state of the Scottish working-class in 1843: a statistical and spatial enquiry based on the data from the Poor Law Commission Report of 1844.
- ——— (1986), A Century of the Scottish People 1830–1950.
- ——— (1986), Scotland and Europe 1200–1850.
- Smout, Christopher; Wood, Sydney, eds. (1990), Scottish Voices 1745–1960.
- Smout, Christopher, ed. (1992), Scotland and the Sea.
- Smout, Christopher, ed. (1993), Scotland Since Prehistory – Natural Change and Human Impact.
- Smout, Christopher; Foster, S, eds. (1994), The History of Soils and Field Systems.
- ———, Prices, food, and wages in Scotland, 1550–1780, 1995.
- ——— (1997), Scottish Woodland History.
- Smout, Christopher; Lambert, RA, eds. (1999), Rothiemurchus: Nature and People on a Highland Estate 1500–2000.
- ———, Nature contested: environmental history in Scotland and Northern England since 1600, 2000.
- Smout, Christopher; Menzies, Gordon, eds. (2001), In search of Scotland.
- ——— (2003), People and woods in Scotland: a history.
- ——— (2012), The Firth of Forth, An Environmental History.
- Order of the British Empire, Commander, 1994.
- University of St Andrews, honorary doctorate, 1999.
- University of Edinburgh, honorary doctorate, 1996.
- University of Glasgow, honorary doctorate, 2001.
- University of Stirling, honorary doctorate, 2002.
- British Academy, fellow.
- Royal Society of Edinburgh, fellow.
- Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, fellow
- "Birthdays," The Times (London). 19 December 2007.
- Gazetter for Scotland: Archived 17 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine Prof. T. Christopher Smout, biography
- "Smout", Union Conference (PDF) (biographical notes), UK: University of Dundee, 21 November 2006, retrieved 27 January 2007[dead link]
- Union Conference (PDF) (in Japanese), JP: NII, 15 September 2007[permanent dead link]
- Moore, Matthew. "Campaigns to protect native species 'are racist'," The Telegraph (London). 26 January 2009.
- Clarke, Peter. "Long live the Lord of the Isles," Archived 23 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine New Statesman.1 November 1999.
- Smit, Claire. "Historiographer Royal speaks out against plans to turn church at heart of ancient burial ground into luxury family home," Scotsman (Edinburgh). 29 March 2008.
- Scape trust
- Institute of Scottish Historical Research, UK: St Andrew's
- "Smout", Royal Commission (biographical notes), London: Prime Minister's Office, 6 March 2002, archived from the original on 16 June 2012
- Devine, Thomas Martin and Paddy Logue, (2002). Being Scottish: Personal Reflections on Scottish Identity Today. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-1-902930-36-7
- University of Edinburgh: "Debating the Union of 1707." 10 January 2007—streaming audio