The answer may seem to be simple-because they are there and teachers expect students to sit in lecture theatres. However, the lecture theatre as we know it today is the result of a complex historical evolution, and may serve as an exemplar for the study of space in history. The space itself has a con-crete, objective existence within changing architectural forms. It is moredifficult to unravel its function, and how the space within the architecturalform was constructed, used or perceived by those who occupied it. One mustin this respect consider contemporary patterns of knowledge, practices ofdisplay, the social context of the dissemination of information, and changingeducational theories. There is no single formula for the analysis of histori-cal spaces, but it is helpful to consider divisions within spaces (whetherphysical or otherwise), patterns of access, notions of public as opposed toprivate space, the use of spatial arrangement to impose order and discipline,as well as the delineation of spaces in emblematic forms. This paper will trace the shape and history of lecture theatres from earlyanatomy theatres of the sixteenth century to the university lecture theatresof today. It is hoped, by approaching the subject in the terms outlined above,to discuss some of the prolems facing those who attempt to study space inhistory and culture.