The History and Archaeology Department is based in a modern purpose-built building at the heart of the University's main Chester Campus. The Department of History and Archaeology has very good links with heritage, museum and archive agencies within the city of Chester, from which students are able to benefit during the course of their studies. The Department is also one of the leading research units within the University. The research interests and specialisms of the Department are diverse, ranging over the medieval, early modern and modern periods, and over local, British, European, American and international history.

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Recent Submissions

  • ‘Coursing the Tinkerley Fox’: Tactics of Garrison Warfare in the West Midlands during 1643 and 1644

    Worton, Jonathan; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2022-02-08)
    A military defeat for the parliamentarians in south Staffordshire in March 1644 involved the capitulation of their outpost at Stourton Castle to Worcestershire royalists. The beaten parliamentary commander was Colonel John Fox, who in autumn 1643 had established a garrison near Birmingham at Edgbaston. This, like Stourton Castle in turn, was one of a number of strongholds in the West Midlands the opposing sides held as a strategy for territorial control. Indeed, much of the fighting of the English Civil War of 1642-6 involved clashes between local garrison-based forces, sometimes fought for the possession of rival strongpoints. In March 1644 Fox enabled the parliamentarian seizure of Stourton Castle for reasons that also impelled inter-garrison warfare elsewhere. The subsequent short campaign to besiege or relieve the castle is reconstructed here, as a case study of the tactics and conduct of the localised military action that shaped the course of the wider war.
  • Mobility of Objects Across Boundaries 1000-1700

    Wilson, Katherine A.; Clark, Leah R.; University of Chester; University of Oxford
    During the period 1000-1700 major transformations took place in material culture. Quite simply, more objects were manufactured and used than ever before and many objects travelled across geographic, political, religious, linguistic, class and cultural boundaries. By starting with a focus on past objects, this volume brings together essays from art historians, historians, archaeologists, literary scholars and museum curators to reveal the different disciplinary approaches and methods taken to the study of objects and what this can reveal about transformations in material culture 1000-1700. Contributors: Katherine A. Wilson, Leah R. Clark, Alison M. Leonard, Steven P. Ashby, Michael Lewis, Robert Maniura, Sarah Hinds, Christina Antenhofer, Alexandra van Dongen, Bettina Bildhauer, Julie De Groot, Jennifer Hillman, Ruth Whelan, Christopher Donaldson, Thomas Pickles.
  • Framing and Translation: Introduction

    Wilson, Katherine A.; Clark, Leah R.; University of Chester; University of Oxford
    During the period 1000-1700 major transformations took place in material culture. Quite simply, more objects were manufactured and used than ever before and many objects travelled across geographic, political, religious, linguistic, class and cultural boundaries. By starting with a focus on past objects, this volume brings together essays from art historians, historians, archaeologists, literary scholars and museum curators to reveal the different disciplinary approaches and methods taken to the study of objects and what this can reveal about transformations in material culture 1000-1700. Contributors: Katherine A. Wilson, Leah R. Clark, Alison M. Leonard, Steven P. Ashby, Michael Lewis, Robert Maniura, Sarah Hinds, Christina Antenhofer, Alexandra van Dongen, Bettina Bildhauer, Julie De Groot, Jennifer Hillman, Ruth Whelan, Christopher Donaldson, Thomas Pickles.
  • Thresholds and Boundaries: Introduction

    Wilson, Katherine A.; Clark, Leah R.; University of Chester; University of Oxford
    During the period 1000-1700 major transformations took place in material culture. Quite simply, more objects were manufactured and used than ever before and many objects travelled across geographic, political, religious, linguistic, class and cultural boundaries. By starting with a focus on past objects, this volume brings together essays from art historians, historians, archaeologists, literary scholars and museum curators to reveal the different disciplinary approaches and methods taken to the study of objects and what this can reveal about transformations in material culture 1000-1700. Contributors: Katherine A. Wilson, Leah R. Clark, Alison M. Leonard, Steven P. Ashby, Michael Lewis, Robert Maniura, Sarah Hinds, Christina Antenhofer, Alexandra van Dongen, Bettina Bildhauer, Julie De Groot, Jennifer Hillman, Ruth Whelan, Christopher Donaldson, Thomas Pickles.
  • Introduction: The Mobility of Objects Across Boundaries 100-1700

    Wilson, Katherine A.; Clark, Leah R.; University of Chester; University of Oxford
    During the period 1000-1700 major transformations took place in material culture. Quite simply, more objects were manufactured and used than ever before and many objects travelled across geographic, political, religious, linguistic, class and cultural boundaries. By starting with a focus on past objects, this volume brings together essays from art historians, historians, archaeologists, literary scholars and museum curators to reveal the different disciplinary approaches and methods taken to the study of objects and what this can reveal about transformations in material culture 1000-1700. Contributors: Katherine A. Wilson, Leah R. Clark, Alison M. Leonard, Steven P. Ashby, Michael Lewis, Robert Maniura, Sarah Hinds, Christina Antenhofer, Alexandra van Dongen, Bettina Bildhauer, Julie De Groot, Jennifer Hillman, Ruth Whelan, Christopher Donaldson, Thomas Pickles.
  • Moving 'out' to be 'in': the suburbanization of London Jewry, 1900-1939

    Ewence, Hannah; University of Chester (Cambridge University Press, 2022-04-19)
    Between 1900 and 1939, Jewish Londoners departed the East End for the suburbs. Relocation, however, was not always the result of individual agency. Many Jews became the object of institutional strategies to coerce and persuade them to disperse away from inner-city areas. Simultaneous to this was the emergence of a dominant pro-suburban rhetoric within and beyond Jewish cultural circles, which aimed to raise aspirations towards middle-class lifestyles. This striking suburban ‘urge’ amongst London Jewry, managed by the community's elite institutions and leaders, was far more than a phenomenon running parallel to wider British society. As this article argues, it was a decisive response to an insidious culture of intolerance and antisemitism.
  • Assemblages within assemblages: Understanding mortuary practice through compact contained assemblages

    Williams, Howard; Downer, Abigail C. (University of Chester, 2021-05)
    Amulet-interpretation remains a long-standing practice in early medieval mortuary archaeology that removes mortuary objects from their funerary contexts and cloaks diverse object-meanings under misleading terminology. This thesis presents an original methodology inspired by recent hoard studies and previous studies on the spatial positioning of objects in graves. The thesis aims to explore the multifactorial significance of objects through their spatial-positioning and clustered dispositions (compact contained assemblages, CCAs) with late sixth-, early and/or broadly seventh-century inhumed females from three regions in early medieval Europe: Alsace, Kent, and East Anglia. Specifically, it will explore with whom and how many objects often categorised as ‘amulets’ are deposited. The methodology is devised and deployed in two ways to test its efficacy at understanding mortuary-object meaning. First, the approach is utilised to explore and compare the composition and spatial-placement of CCAs sharing at least one object-type in common with contemporaneous and regionally coherent individuals. Second, the approach explores and compares the spatial-positioning and method of containment of a single object-type/material. The material selected for this second application was amber given the amuletic role its often prescribed by archaeologists in early medieval mortuary contexts. Both approaches of this methodology produced overlapping results. Overall, CCAs were very common across all studied samples suggesting that object containment was a regular feature of late sixth-, broadly and early seventh-century inhumation-burial. Possible explanations for this trend include object-protection, post-mortem transportation, and post-mortem storage. Additionally, the spatial-positioning of CCAs in graves often reflected regionally specific grave-cut dimensions and regional tastes in funerary structures. The two applications also revealed some regular features of CCA-composition. First, similarly positioned, contemporaneous, and regionally congruent female-CCAs often contained similar object-types, indicating that these clusters were deliberate and planned compositions that prescribed to larger contemporaneous and localised inhumation-grave layouts. In these similarly positioned and contemporaneous female-CCAs with similar object-types, the similar objects often exhibited unique decoration, possessed divergent forms, and/or were accompanied by a different object-types and object-quantities. This suggested that CCA-composition were a result of personalisation. The thesis ends with outlining future avenues of research and the utility of this approach in mortuary studies.
  • ‘Roots in the soil’: the evolution of a countryside youth service in Westmorland, 1939-c.1950

    Andrew, Rebecca; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2022-03-04)
    This article traces the evolution of the statutory Youth Service in rural Westmorland (now part of Cumbria), from its establishment in 1939 to the early post-war years. It focuses on how the county’s Youth Service innovated and developed new ways of working with young country people in their spare time, and the challenges of introducing urban-focused policy into rural practice. It argues that to be effective in work outside urban areas, the national Youth Service had to adapt to existing patterns of country life and leisure. Tensions between this external organising body and local communities are also considered. The article draws on official Youth Service records, including minute books, correspondence and annual reports, alongside local press accounts and oral history testimony. In doing so, it enhances our understanding of the professionalisation of informal education, and the leisure habits of rural youth, during and immediately after the Second World War.
  • Collaboratory, coronavirus and the colonial countryside

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2020-12-01)
    Introducing the second volume of the Offa’s Dyke Journal (ODJ), this five-part article sets the scene by reviewing: (i) key recent research augmenting last year’s Introduction (Williams and Delaney 2019); (ii) the key activities of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory in 2020; (iii) the political mobilisation of Offa’s Dyke in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns; (iv) the ramifications of accelerated efforts to decolonise the British countryside on both archaeological research and heritage interpretation on linear monuments; and (v) a review of the contents of volume 2. Together, this introduction presents the context and significance of ODJ volume 2 for both research on the Welsh Marches and broader investigations of frontiers and borderlands.
  • Living after Offa: Place-Names and Social Memory in the Welsh Marches

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2020-08-01)
    How are linear monuments perceived in the contemporary landscape and how do they operate as memoryscapes for today’s borderland communities? When considering Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke in today’s world, we must take into account the generations who have long lived in these monuments’ shadows and interacted with them. Even if perhaps only being dimly aware of their presence and stories, these are communities living ‘after Offa’. These monuments have been either neglected or ignored within heritage sites and museums with only a few notable exceptions (Evans and Williams 2019; Williams 2020), and have long been subject to confused and challenging conflations with both the modern Welsh/English border and, since the 1970s, with the Offa’s Dyke Path. Moreover, to date, no study has attempted to compile and evaluate the toponomastic (place-name) evidence pertaining to the monuments’ presences, and remembered former presences, in today’s landscape. Focusing on naming practices as memory work in the contemporary landscape, the article explores the names of houses, streets, parks, schools and businesses. It argues for the place-making role of toponomastic evidence, mediated in particular by the materiality of signs themselves. Material and textual citations to the monuments render them integral to local communities’ social memories and borderland identities, even where the dykes have been erased, damaged or obscured by development. Moreover, they have considerable potential future significance for engaging borderland communities in both dykes as part of the longer-term story of their historic environment.
  • Public Archaeologies from the Edge

    Williams, Howard; Clarke, Pauline; Gleave, Kieran; University of Chester; University of Salford (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
    The chapter serves to introduce the first-ever book dedicated to public archaeologies of frontiers and borderlands. We identify the hitherto neglect of this critical field which seeks to explore the heritage, public engagements, popular cultures and politics of frontiers and borderlands past and present. We review the 2019 conference organised by Uiversity of Chester Archaeology students at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, which inspired this book, and then survey the structure and contents of the collection. We advocate that public archaeologies should seek to incorporate and foreground perspectives ‘from the edge’. By this we mean public archaeology should make frontiers and borderlands – including the people living with them and seeking to traverse them – paramount to future work.
  • Interpreting Wat’s Dyke in the 21st Century

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
    Linear monuments offer special challenges in the context of the public archaeology of frontiers and borderlands. This chapter tackles the interpretive neglect of Britain’s second-longest early medieval earthwork, Wat’s Dyke, showing how its sparse and sporadic archaeological attention is reflected in poor and out-dated public archaeology and heritage interpretation. I evaluate the current media and mechanisms by which various publics – including global digital audiences, visitors to the Anglo-Welsh borderlands through which the monument runs, and local communities living in the Dyke’s environs in Flintshire, Wrexham and Shropshire – can access, experience and learn about Wat’s Dyke. Having identified how Wat’s Dyke is fragmented and obscure in the landscape despite its monumental presence, and how its digital resources are inadequate, I then propose new avenues for developing innovative interpretations of Wat’s Dyke for both existing and new audiences which aim to provide up-to-date and engaging resources and connect the monument to the rich cultural landscapes, past and present, through which it runs. I argue these recommendations provide the basis for both enhancing awareness and knowledge. I also argue they provide a more robust resources for current and future generations of research and public engagement. I also suggest they serve to combat the risk of pseudo-archaeological narratives and extremist political appropriations of Wat’s Dyke.
  • Envisioning Wat’s Dyke

    Williams, Howard; Swogger, John G.; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
    In response to the challenge set by one of us (Williams this volume), this chapter explores new avenues for a public archaeology of Wat’s Dyke. A host of digital and real-world initiatives for public and community engagement are suggested, but the focus is upon one new initiative: the What’s Wat’s Dyke? Heritage Trail which aims to envision Wat’s Dyke within the town and suburbs of Wrexham using a comic medium. From this basis, the potential is explored for using the linearity of Wat’s Dyke as a gateway to explore the complex historic and cultural landscapes of the Welsh Marches from prehistory to the present.
  • The Biography of Borderlands: Old Oswestry Hillfort and Modern Heritage Debates

    Williams, Howard; McMillian-Sloan, Ruby; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
    Responding to the recently published edited collection exploring the hillfort and landscape context of Old Oswestry (Shropshire, England) by heritage professionals connected to the Hands off Old Oswestry Hillfort heritage protection campaign (Malim and Nash 2020), this chapter reviews and reflects on the significance of the overall ‘life-history’ or ‘biography’ of Old Oswestry hillfort and its immediate environs to the present-day emotive and mnemonic significance of the monument. It argues that this biographical dimension fosters the hillfort as a locus of borderland identity, which explains the affinities of local inhabitants to Old Oswestry and frames the ongoing debates and conflicts regarding its significance and setting. Giving greater attention to researching and communicating this biography promises to inform and foster future public engagement and community action.
  • Undead Divides: An Archaeology of Walls in The Walking Dead

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-11-26)
    In 2010, the zombie horror genre gained even greater popularity than the huge following it had previously enjoyed when AMC’s The Walking Dead (TWD) first aired. The chapter surveys the archaeology of this fictional post-apocalyptic material world in the show’s seasons 1–9, focusing on its mural practices and environments which draw upon ancient, biblical, medieval and colonial motifs. The study identifies the moralities and socialities of wall-building, dividing not only survivors aspiring to re-found civilization from the wilderness and manifesting the distinctive identities of each mural community, but also distinguishing the living from the undead. The roles of the dead and the undead in mural iterations are also explored. As such, dimensions of past and present wall-building practices are reflected and inverted in this fictional world. As part of a broader ‘archaeology of The Walking Dead’, the chapter identifies the potentials of exploring the show’s physical barriers within the context of the public archaeology of frontiers and borderlands.
  • Objects as Dynastic Agents: Burgundian Inventories of Philip the Bold and Margaret of Flanders

    Wilson, Katherine Anne; University of Chester (StudienVerlag, 2022-05-19)
    At the start of the fifteenth century, two dynastic inventories were compiled, prompted by the death of two key European rulers. The first came into being on the death of Philip the Bold, duke of Burgundy in 1404, the second on the death of his wife Margaret of Flanders, less than a year later in 1405. These two dynastic inventories, preserve references to thousands of moveable objects, but still remain underexplored by historians. This article will reassess these inventories in light of the ‘material turn’ to reconstruct the political ‘theatres’ and ‘actors’ involved in their construction. In addition, it will examine the objects of the inventories to reveal the ways in which they operated as agents of dynastic power, maintaining and creating networks of social relations at a critical political moment for the Burgundian dynasty.
  • Disrupting the Rituals of Grief: Conflict, Covid-19 and the Fracturing of Funerary Tradition

    Critchell, Kara; University of Chester (Peter Lang, 2021-09-01)
    This chapter considers the disruption of the funerary ritual during the Covid-19 pandemic and reflects on the connections between these disruptions and state intervention in funerary practice during the Second World War. Through an analysis of how such intervention has occurred, and the language of sacrifice that has been evoked in both instances, it will be suggested that the fracturing of the formal rituals of death and commemoration has not only led to complicated grief amongst individuals, but that it could also result in long- term societal trauma.
  • Eastern Presence: Metropolitan responses to the Indian Army, 1914-15

    Grady, Tim; Ewence, Hannah; Dawson, Owen J. (University of Chester, 2021-08)
    The mobilisation of the British empire during the First World War created new spaces for encounter between British and Indian society. Between August 1914 and December 1915, the Indian army dispatched over 100,000 Indian servicemen to the Western Front as part of Indian Expeditionary Force A. The thesis’s objective is to improve understanding of how Western and, more specifically, British society responded to the presence of these Indian servicemen. It reconsiders British perspectives of the Indian solider, reflects upon how these perspectives impacted the discourse which surrounded the sepoys, and the effect it had on the Indian army’s colonial hierarchy. As a result, ‘Eastern Presence’ furthers understanding of British conceptions of racial identity and colonialism within the context of the First World War and demonstrates the impact that these conceptions had on the Indian army’s hierarchical structure. To achieve this goal, the thesis uses the geographical and locational settings experienced by Indian servicemen during their stay in Western Europe to analyse their interactions with various parts of British and Western society. Through its analysis of these interactions, ‘Eastern Presence’ challenges much of the existing historiography by arguing that variances in conceptions of race can be identified, depending on the part of British society which experienced the encounter. It consequently concludes that British society demonstrated varying degrees of knowledge, empathy, and perception towards the colonial ‘other’ in its midst.
  • A Roman Villa near Rossett

    Pudney, Caroline; Grenter, Steve; University of Chester; Wrexham Museum
    In the light of the discovery of the Roman lead ingot near Rossett in 2019, a partnership project was established between the University of Chester and Wrexham Museum with the aim of investigating its wider archaeological context. As part of this, the footprint of a winged-corridor villa was identified. This article outlines the initial findings and their potential significance.
  • Book Review: Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape, by John Blair, Stephen Rippon and Christopher Smart

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2021-08-12)
    A book review of John Blair, Stephen Rippon, and Christopher Smart, Planning the Early Medieval Landscape (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020).

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