Wilfrid Prest studied at the University of Melbourne (BA Hons.), followed by a DPhil in Modern History from Oxford; following a brief stint as publishing trainee in London, he came to a lectureship in the Department of History in 1966.
Apart from two years as Assistant Professor at The Johns Hopkins University (1969-71), and visiting posts elsewhere (ANU, Cambridge, Oxford, Princeton, St Andrews), Prest taught and wrote history at Adelaide until 2002. He then took up an ARC Australian Professorial Fellowship, transferring to the Law School in 2003; his final academic appointment before retirement was as Professor of Law. He is currently Emeritus Professor and Visiting Research Fellow in History and in Law, a Fellow of Queen's College, University of Melbourne, the Australian Academy of the Humanities, the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia, and the Royal Historical Society (UK), and a member of the Council of the Selden Society.