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

  • Plants as persons: perceptions of the natural world in the North European Mesolithic

    Taylor, Barry; University of Chester
    Amongst many hunter-gatherer communities, plants, animals and other aspects of the ‘natural’ environment, are bound up in, and gain significance and meaning from, specific cultural traditions. These traditions intricately bind the natural world into broader ontological understandings, which include concepts of animacy, the origins of the world, its structure and composition, and the behaviour of supernatural beings. Through these traditions, elements of the environment are imbued with an ontological significance that informs the way people perceive them, and how they interact with them through economic or ritual practice. There is a growing body of evidence that comparable traditions also structured the ways that hunter-gatherers interacted with their environment during the European Mesolithic. Much of the research has focused on the significance of animals, but this paper argues that plants were perceived in a similar way. Through a series of case studies from the North European Mesolithic, it shows how trees in particular were understood as powerful forces, playing active roles in people’s lives, and how interactions with them were mediated through prescribed forms of social practice
  • Why should we write about Anglo-Saxon farms and farming?

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester
    A review of four recent works on Anglo-Saxon farms, farming, and food.
  • Review: Nicole Discenza, Inhabited Spaces: Anglo-Saxon Constructions of Place

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2019-03-25)
    A book review.
  • ‘A Spectacle for the Cameras’: The survival of a Lakeland leisure tradition, 1930- c.1955

    Andrew, Rebecca; University of Chester
    This article examines the survival of rushbearing, a rural leisure tradition in the English Lake District. As a region popular with tourists throughout the 20th century, this case study offers important insights into how their presence shaped this ‘traditional’ leisure activity. Not only did annual rushbearing ceremonies offer opportunities for the region’s sense of place to be presented to outsiders, they were also an important way for local communities to reaffirm their connection to the Lake District and its past. These occasions were, however, increasingly influenced by an awareness of external influences and outside judgements, as the region’s popularity as a tourist destination boomed from the inter-war years. Although youth culture was increasingly standardised at a national level during this period, at a local level, young countrymen and women played an integral role in rushbearing’s survival, which promoted an idealised version of ‘traditional’ country life. This annual community event is therefore a useful example through which to examine the interplay between rural leisure traditions, tourism, and the role of young people in the countryside during this period.
  • Geohumanities 2017 workshop report

    Martins, Bruno; Murrieta-Flores, Patricia (Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2018-01-09)
  • Chester, Cavaliers and Cannons

    Chadwick, Sam (BBC History Magazine, 2019-10-26)
    This presentation looked at Chester’s role in the Civil War, the day-to-day activities of the siege of Chester, and the actions of the troops and commanders, supported by one of the key weapons of the time: artillery. Starting with an overview of the Civil War and its three parts, this lecture went on to look at 17th century siege warfare and its part in the civil war. It then drew out Chester’s place in the economy and the political landscape of the time, as well as the state of its defences. The presentation outlined the key figures in the siege of Chester, and broke down the siege into 4 key phases. Finally the presentation concluded with drawing the siege back to some of the original research on siege warfare and seeing how applicable they are in this case study.
  • ‘That factious City’: Exeter during the Civil War,a city with two identities?

    Chadwick, Sam
    The 17th century was a period of turmoil for Britain. Tensions had arisen between Protestant and Catholic beliefs, between the emerging merchant class and the old land‐owning gentry, between the king’s wish to rule by Divine Right and Parliament’s attempt to limit this, and between the English core and Britain’s other identities, those of Wales, Cornwall and Scotland. Ireland’s relations with the hub, too, were being re‐shaped. These tensions merged into a series of wars, starting with the first ‘Bishop’s War’ or ‘Scots’ War’ in 1639, which were not resolved until the 1688 ‘Glorious Revolution’. The wars brought about substantial changes to the identity of Britain. They are classically represented as one grand war with three phases, 1641‐1646, 1648 and 1649‐1652. Many different areas were caught up in the fighting. In England and Wales a total of around 150 towns were affected, with around 10,000 houses being destroyed. Many castles were slighted, so that they no longer could be used as a fortification or hold the weight of large cannon. Several fortifications were damaged to the point of ruination. The war is often represented as just two sides, Cavaliers and Roundheads; in fact the true identity of the war was one of several disparate factions all attempting to gain their own objectives. Histories of the Civil War have often tended to focus upon major national campaigns and principal armies occasionally clashing in glorious and decisive battles. However, these wars were shaped more by the gaining and holding of territory through skirmishes and sieges rather than these grandiose battles. Indeed the war’s duration and its repercussions for the civilian population make sieges a much better representation of how the Civil War was experienced. This paper looked at Exeter in the Civil War. Study of its alignment not only reveal details about itself, but also themes and trends that run throughout the Civil War. Exeter’s location on the river Exe –a major artery that allowed trade and communication with Europe –and its position between Royalist Cornwall and the Parliamentarian counties of Somerset, Wiltshire and Dorset made it a heavily contested prize. It had stonewalls, originally built by the Romans but reinforced several times. It had already been besieged during the medieval and early modern periods, during an 18-day Norman siege of 1068 and a five-week siege during the Prayer Book rebellion in 1549. The city was one of only a handful of walled towns situated in Devon and Cornwall during this period and was situated on a ridge of high ground near the river, functioning as the county town. It was also was fourth or fifth in size and wealth in the country. Despite its wealth, before the Civil War its economic fortunes had declined. War time tax increases and a movement of its trade hub from France and Spain to Holland were causing hardship to the city.
  • Displaying the Dark Ages in Museums

    Williams, Howard; Clarke, Pauline; Bratton, Sarah; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-03-02)
    How museums and heritage sites in England display the early medieval past is the focus of academic and public interest and debate. Despite ever-pressured budgets and limited resources, the stories told about the early medieval past in these environments are of key importance for the story of this island, and have become increasingly important in the context of political and cultural crises of English identity, and extremist appropriations of the Early Middle Ages. Reviewing current and past displays of early medieval material culture at the Museum of Liverpool, the World Museum (also in Liverpool), and Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, this chapter evaluates the Early Middle Ages in city museums serving multicultural regions in the English North West and West Midlands. Consequently, we identify recommendations for potential future museum engagement with the ‘Dark Ages’.
  • Public Archaeology for the Dark Ages

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-03-02)
    This introductory chapter identifies the principal issues and themes in the public archaeology of the Early Middle Ages, exploring the specific and compelling challenges of investigating and evaluating the early medieval past in contemporary society mediated by archaeology. In doing so, we review and contextualise the contributions to the 3rd University of Chester Archaeology Student conference: ‘Digging into the Dark Ages’, which took place at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, 13 December 2017. The resulting book comprises a selection of the student contributions and a range of additional chapters by heritage professionals and academics. The book’s structure and contents are then outlined: the first-ever collection dedicated to ‘Dark Age’ public archaeology. It is argued that for future research, critical public archaeologies are essential for ethical and engaging early medieval archaeology in both theory and practice.
  • Archaeology in Alfred the Great (1969) and The Last Kingdom (2015–)

    Nicholls, Victoria; Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-03-02)
    Alfred the Great (1969) was the first, and remains the only, feature-length film portraying the West Saxon king and his conflicts with the Danes. Forty-seven years later, Bernard Cornwell’s novels have been adapted for television as The Last Kingdom (2015–). Despite being fictional adaptions of historical events, and despite the considerable separation in time between their production, both Alfred the Great and The Last Kingdom consciously aspired to portray the Saxons and Vikings with a high degree of historical accuracy. Taking an archaeological perspective – focusing on the material cultures represented and their archaeological inspirations – this chapter asks which is more effective in representing late 9th-century Britain and what are the implications of this comparison?
  • Death and memory in fragments: Project Eliseg’s public archaeology

    Williams, Howard; Evans, Suzanne; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2020-03-02)
    The public archaeology of death has frequently focused on the ethics and practices of excavating, displaying and curating human remains and mortuary contexts. Yet the focus of investigation is often restricted to whole, articulated bodies and tangible, complete monuments. Far fewer discussions have tackled the complex challenges of engaging the public with fragmented, partial human remains, ephemeral mortuary material cultures and dislocated funerary monuments. Equally, few studies have tackled the distributed nature of mortuary and memorial traces through their artistic representation and replication. This article addresses the challenges of Project Eliseg’s (2010–present) public archaeology when fragmentation, absence and distribution – both temporally and spatially – pervade the mortuary and memorial archaeology under investigation. We address how the public outreach of our fieldwork both succeeded and faced challenges to engage local people with the monument itself, partly because the monument is fragmented in multiple regards and partly because it is not primarily or exclusively in situ, but is instead both materially and conceptually elsewhere within the landscape of Wales and beyond.
  • The Alien Jew in the British Imagination, 1881-1905: Space, Mobility and Territoriality

    Ewence, Hannah; University of Chester
    This book explores how fin de siècle Britain and Britons displaced spatially-charged apprehensions about imperial decline, urban decay and unpoliced borders onto Jews from Eastern Europe migrating westwards. The myriad of representations of the ‘alien Jew’ that emerged were the product of, but also a catalyst for, a decisive moment in Britain’s legal history: the fight for the 1905 Aliens Act. Drawing upon a richly diverse collection of social and political commentary, including fiction, political testimony, ethnography, travel writing, journalism and cartography, this volume traces the shifting rhetoric around alien Jews as they journeyed from the Russian Pale of Settlement to London’s East End. By employing a unique and innovative reading of both the aliens debate and racialized discourse concerned with ‘the Jew’, Hannah Ewence demonstrates that ideas about ‘space’ and 'place’ critically informed how migrants were viewed; an argument which remains valid in today’s world.
  • The Hidden Narratives of Medieval Art

    Wilson, Katherine Anne; University of Chester (Fordham University Press, 2019-10-15)
    To modern readers and viewers, objects like the Arnolfini portrait or the Angers Apocalypse tapestry appear to be the product and preserve of an elite class of consumers in the Middle Ages. This chapter argues that our analyses of these objects should not focus exclusively, or even predominantly on elites. In addition, the essay gives a voice and a place to the workers behind art of the Middle Ages examining the economic uncertainty and instability of employment that underpinned their production. It considers entrepreneurs who saw medieval courts and elite customers as commercial opportunities to be exploited. It ends by examining elite users of these products to complicate the narratives of their consumption. Far from simply reflecting the power and status of their owners, objects like the Arnolfini portrait or the Apocalypse tapestry also conveyed the uncertainty of everyday life and the fragility of princely rule during the Middle Ages.
  • Deteriorative Influences Upon the Morale of the British 21st Army Group in the Shadow of Operation ‘Market Garden’.

    Grady, Tim; Kirby-Jones, Harry, D, B. (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-09-19)
    Operation ‘Market Garden’ was initiated by Allied forces on the 17th September 1944, ending on the 25th of the same month. Up until that point of the Second World War, it was the largest airborne landing to have ever been undertaken. The main aim of Operation ‘Market Garden’ was to open up an invasion route for the Allied forces into the north of Germany from the Netherlands. In order to do this, the operation sought to capture and cross a number of bridges over a series of rivers and canals, including the Rhine and the Maas. The first part of this operation - ‘Market’ - involved the landing of paratroopers in proximity to these bridges in order to capture and secure, awaiting part two of the operation. ‘Garden’ involved the movement of heavier units from Belgium, up through the Netherlands, relieving the units holding these bridges (See Source 0.01, 0.02, 0.03).
  • The use of photogrammetry and film in fostering understanding of early medieval history

    Lang, Roger (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-09)
    The recent arrival of a growing body of freely available photogrammetric 3D models of early medieval stone sculptures gives the opportunity for educators to use them as virtual primary sources, either directly as navigable objects or through the medium of film. The research investigates their potential role in schools following the current national curriculum in England. The curriculum requirements are reviewed and their implementation investigated through a study of school websites and Ofsted reports in an English shire county. A search is made for suitable stone sculptures with 3D models, new ones are made where necessary, and the academic literature on the sculptures is reviewed. Lesson plans and resources are created and trialed in three primary schools in a method closely resembling cyclic Lesson Study methodology. The conclusion is that the process has demonstrated the potential for the use of 3D models to serve as the focus of engaging and challenging lessons.
  • From Siege to Emerging Leisure Town: Chester’s Recovery from the Civil War, 1646-1745

    Gaunt, Peter; Beech, Rachel (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-09)
    By the end of 1647, Chester had been reduced to a damaged and diseased shell, suffering from the twin effects of civil war siege and plague. Reports stated that most of the capable working population had fled leaving only the poor and dying.1 However, only thirty years later Chester began to see marked improvements, with fashionable architecture, growing marketing and port trade, and a wealthy population of urban gentry. How the city was able to recover from its low state towards a comfortable and prosperous new identity – the ‘leisure town’ – will be explored in this dissertation
  • Why is China absent from the human remains debate

    Wu, Hukeyao (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-09)
    The display of human remains has been widely studied and discussed by archaeologists and museum curators all around the world. The discussion on this topic involves the ethics, policies, and display methods faced by museums concerning the repatriation, storage, care, management and interpretation of human remains. China, however, has been absent from this debate. It is not that Chinese museums do not display human remains. On the contrary, some Chinese museums do exhibit human remains and proper practices and respect have been shown in some museums. In order to find out the reasons of China’s absence from the human remains debate, this article will review the relevant literature of Britain and China and analyse the possible reasons from four aspects, respectively: repatriation claims, authority, changed Chinese culture and display tendency. Besides, one case study of a Western Han dynasty female corpse displayed in the Hunan Museum will be reviewed as access to the Chinese context.
  • A study of the deposition of, and taphonomic processes affecting, plant macrofossil records for an island in Palaeolake Flixton, North Yorkshire

    Taylor, Barry; Clarke, Pauline (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-12)
    Plant macrofossil analysis is used in the study of developing environments and is especially applied to the study of the formation of a hydrosere, due to the excellent preservation conditions usually found in the peat associated with the lakes infilling. Modern studies of the flora present in an area and the correlation to the associated macrofossils give proxies for the study of a Palaeolake, such as Lake Flixton in the Vale of Pickering, North Yorkshire. While the proxy studies broadly concur in the approach to be taken, the deposition and taphonomy of specific plant species and the value of any results, there are elements not considered in them, one being that here are no extant studies of the dispersal of macro-remains and the associated taphonomic processes that are particular to islands within a lake. This dissertation aims to correct this by studying No Name Hill, a former island within Palaeolake Flixton. Cores for examination were collected from the island during excavations in 2018 and the resultant data compared with previous studies from other sites around the lake. While the hydroseral succession was demonstrated consistently across the lake environment, the cores from the island highlighted differential processes of deposition and taphonomy affecting the macrofossil record. It is probable that the shoreline cores give a more generic picture of the environment of the lake and surroundings, while cores taken from an island produce results which are more reflective of the localised flora.
  • Stories Of The Past: Viewing History Through Fiction

    Pardoe, James; Williams, Howard; Green, Christopher (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2020-01)
    This thesis investigates how effective works of fiction are, through their depictions of past worlds, in providing us with a resource for the study of the history of the period in which that fiction is set. It assesses past academic literature on the role of fiction in historical understanding, and on the processes involved in the writing, reading, adapting, and interpreting of fiction. It contends that the creation and consumption of fiction has not been looked at in a holistic way in terms of an overall process that takes us from author to consumer with all of the potential intermediate steps. The thesis proposes and describes such a process model, each step within which contains a number of key elements, namely actors, actions, influences, artefacts, and finally the real and imagined worlds of the fiction. It begins with the author, who through actions of perception and adaptation, and affected by various external influences, social, political, and aesthetic, mediates with elements of his or her contemporary world and incorporates them into the imagined world of the initial artefact, the novel. It describes how at each stage in the process other actors (critics, adapters and curators) engage with previous artefacts such as the novel and previous adaptations, and their own set of influences, and through actions of reception, adaptation and interpretation create further artefacts such as critical reviews, adaptations and tourist interpretations that comprise further imagined worlds that can be compared to the author’s original imagined world, and by extension, the original past world. Using a number of case studies of English novels of the period from 1800 to 1930, the thesis assesses what the practical evidence of the process in action tells us about the ability of a novel to act as an adjunct to contemporary records in providing insights into that original real world. These studies incorporate analysis of the novels themselves, and of subsequent artefacts such as film and television adaptations, curated literary places and guidebooks, and both professional and lay reviews. The thesis concludes that fiction in its various forms, and especially in its adapted and interpreted forms, whilst not a pure historical document as such, has the ability to provide us with a vivid perception of a past world. It contends that the process model could be used as an aid in the teaching of History or English Literature, or as an aid to the general consumer of fiction, to help remove the layers of imagined worlds that potentially lie between us and a past historical world, thereby reducing the ability of that layering to create a misleading view of history.

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