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.

Recent Submissions

  • Book Review of British Battles 493-937: Mount Badon to Brunanburh by Andrew Breeze

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester
    A review of Andrew Breeze, British Battles 493-937: Mount Badon to Brunanburh (London: Anthem Press, 2021).
  • Stigmatizing Space: Jewish East London at the Fin de Siecle

    Ewence, Hannah; University of Chester (Routledge, 2023-12-01)
    London’s East End – a quarter buttressing the city’s docklands – has long been a place of arrival for migrants both domestic and foreign. Characterised in the 19th century by dense housing, tenement blocks, large factories, and low-grade workshops, it was also an area subject to pervasive stigmatisation by on-lookers. It was a stigmatisation which drew upon the area’s reputation as a ‘notorious’ slum quarter and a ‘hotbed’ for crime, complicated by its established status as a reception centre for ‘foreigners’. The large-scale arrival and settlement of Jews from Eastern Europe after 1880 cemented but also extended and diversified such narratives. The rhetoric of the ‘slum’ was now codified with a new, distinctly antisemitic way of describing and degenerating space. The East End slum quarter became ‘the ghetto’, textile factories became ‘sweatshops’, and the East End itself was imaginatively transformed to become ‘little Jerusalem’. Journalists, philanthropists, politicians, novelists, flaneurs and voyeurs all contributed to this spatial lexicon. So too did members of the established Jewish community in Britain both internalise and regurgitate such language as a means to distinguish themselves from their ‘alien’ brethren. This chapter explores the emergence and evolution of this linguistic landscape within cultural discourse of the period, arguing that it was the pre-existing identity of the East End itself as a place apart which allowed this vocabulary to form.
  • V for Viking

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Brepols, 2023)
    What is the most famous ‘Viking funeral’ in modern popular culture? I present a case for the funeral of V in the dystopian fiction of the 1980s graphic novel V for Vendetta and its 2005 film adaptation. Building on earlier roots, the nineteenth-century creation of the Vikings and the Viking Age (c.750–1050) took place through fiction, literary and historical scholarship but also through prominent and influential archaeological investigations of artefacts, sites and monuments in which funerary practices were central and captured the popular imagination. Tied to concepts of feud, fate and faith, this fascination with Old Norse deathways and concepts of the afterlife focused on the conception that the Vikings burned their dead in boats or ships set adrift on open water. By tackling one manifestation of this modern engagement with this imagined Viking past, this epilogue serves as a case study for rethinking the complexity and entanglement of Viking themes in contemporary arts and media, but also to rethink academic public engagements, teaching and research in both Viking and Vikingist studies, and thus medieval/medievalist scholarship more broadly, to counter extremist appropriations.
  • Public Viking Research in Museums and Beyond

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (Swedish Archaeological Society, 2022-12-23)
    The popularity of the Vikings remains a mixed blessing for archaeologists and heritage practitioners; they are ‘victims of their own success’ on multiple registers (Croix 2015). This is all the more so because, over the last decade at least, we have been unquestionably living through a global ‘Viking revival’ (Birkett 2019:4). Today, Vikings are a focus of identity, faith, politics, consumerism and escapism in which archaeological sources are drawn upon in rich and complex fashions. I have three critical points to make which aim to support and extend, not detract from or devalue, Sindbæk’s insights and inferences: ‘where’s the evidence?’; ‘what’s the context?’; ‘what do we do about it?’ These points together lead me to propose we must collectively adopt a refreshed and reinvigorated agenda to pursue dedicated and sustained ‘Public Viking Research’ into today’s Vikingisms in museums and elsewhere.
  • Human remains in ‘non-burial’ contexts

    Gray Jones, Amy; University of Chester
    A characteristic feature of the mortuary record of Mesolithic Europe is the variability in the depositional contexts from which human remains have been recovered. As well as clearly defined burials, skeletal material has also been recorded from occupation deposits, middens, caves, stream channels and bodies of water – the ‘non-burial’ contexts of this chapter’s title. The character of this material also varies, from isolated finds of single skeletal elements, to the disarticulated remains of partial bodies, assemblages of specific elements (notably skulls), and the commingled remains of multiple individuals. In some cases, they represent the only evidence for the deposition of human remains at a site, while in others they occur (both spatially and temporally) alongside inhumation and cremation burials. This chapter reviews human remains from a variety of non-burial contexts, defined principally as those remains that were not inhumed as complete bodies, and explores the contribution that this material can make to our understanding of funerary practice and belief in the European Mesolithic.
  • Lateglacial to Mid-Holocene Vegetation History in the Eastern Vale of Pickering, Northeast Yorkshire, UK: Pollen Diagrams from Palaeolake Flixton

    Simmons, Ian G.; Cummins, Gaynor E.; Taylor, Barry; Innes, James B.; Durham University; University of Chester (MDPI, 2022-12-08)
    Palaeolake Flixton, in the eastern Vale of Pickering in northeast Yorkshire, UK, existed as open water during the Lateglacial and early to mid-Holocene, until hydroseral succession and gradual terrestrialisation changed it to an area of fen and basin peatland by the later mid-Holocene. The environs of the lake were occupied by Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic people over thousands of years and many Early Mesolithic sites, in particular, have been found located along the ancient lake edge, including the paradigm site for the British Early Mesolithic at Star Carr, where occupation occurred over several centuries. We have analysed eleven sediment cores, distributed in most parts of the palaeolake area, for pollen and stratigraphic data with which to reconstruct lake development and vegetation history. These new diagrams augment earlier pollen studies from the western part of the lake, particularly in the Star Carr area and near other major Mesolithic sites around Seamer Carr. Especially informative are a long core from the deepest part of the lake; cores that document the Lateglacial as well as early Holocene times, and evidence for the later Mesolithic that helps to balance the high density of Late Mesolithic sites known from research in the adjacent uplands of the North York Moors. There are many records of charcoal in the deposits but, especially for the earliest examples, it is not always possible to tie them firmly to either human activity or natural causes. Overall, the new and previously existing diagrams provide evidence for the spatial reconstruction of vegetation history across this important wetland system, including (a) for the progression of natural community successions within the wetland and on the surrounding dryland (b) the influence of climate change in bringing about changes in woodland composition and (c) for discussion of the possibility of human manipulation of the vegetation in the Late Upper Palaeolithic, Early and Late Mesolithic. Results show that climate was the main driver of longer-term vegetation change. Centennial-scale, abrupt climate events caused significant vegetation reversals in the Lateglacial Interstadial. The Lateglacial vegetation was very similar throughout the lake hinterland, although some areas supported some scrubby shrub rather than being completely open. Immigration and spread of Holocene woodland taxa comprised the familiar tree succession common in northern England but the timings of the establishment and the abundance of some individual tree types varied considerably around the lake margins because of edaphic factors and the effects of fire, probably of human origin. Woodland successions away from proximity to the lake were similar to those recorded in the wider landscape of northern England and produced a dense, homogenous forest cover occasionally affected by fire.
  • Medieval Chester Retold

    Wilson, Katherine A.; University of Chester
    Medieval Chester Retold. An exciting look at the medieval city with stories told through the objects everyday people used. This exhibition is part of a wider Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project, Mobility of Objects Across Boundaries, 1000-1700, led by University of Chester and University of Oxford.
  • This Fascist Life: Radical Right Movements in Interwar Europe

    Grady, Tim; Clark, Roland; University of Chester; University of Liverpool
    Drawing upon The Wiener Holocaust Library’s unique archival collections, first assembled in the 1930s by Dr Alfred Wiener as part of his fight against fascism, as well as the expertise of an international group of experts in interwar fascism, this exhibition focuses on the experiences of rank-and-file members of fascist movements in the interwar period. It explores the world of the young and socially diverse fascist activists and examines their motivations and activities.
  • Introduction: Beyond Inclusion and Exclusion

    Grady, Tim; Crouthamel, Jason; Geheran, Michael; Köhne, Julia; Grand Valley State University; Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, United States Military Academy; University of Chester; Humboldt-Universität (Berghahn, 2018-11-29)
    During the First World War, the Jewish population of Central Europe was politically, socially, and experientially diverse, to an extent that resists containment within a simple historical narrative. While antisemitism and Jewish disillusionment have dominated many previous studies of the topic, this collection aims to recapture the multifariousness of Central European Jewish life in the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike during the First World War. Here, scholars from multiple disciplines explore rare sources and employ innovative methods to illuminate four interconnected themes: minorities and the meaning of military service, Jewish-Gentile relations, cultural legacies of the war, and memory politics.
  • Beyond Inclusion and Exclusion: Jewish Experiences of the First World War in Central Europe

    Grady, Tim; Crouthamel, Jason; Geheran, Michael; Köhne, Julia; University of Chester; Grand Valley State University; Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, United States Military Academy; Humboldt-Universität (Berghahn, 2018-11-29)
    During the First World War, the Jewish population of Central Europe was politically, socially, and experientially diverse, to an extent that resists containment within a simple historical narrative. While antisemitism and Jewish disillusionment have dominated many previous studies of the topic, this collection aims to recapture the multifariousness of Central European Jewish life in the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike during the First World War. Here, scholars from multiple disciplines explore rare sources and employ innovative methods to illuminate four interconnected themes: minorities and the meaning of military service, Jewish-Gentile relations, cultural legacies of the war, and memory politics.
  • European Fascist Movements: An Introduction

    Grady, Tim; Clark, Roland; University of Chester; University of Liverpool
    This volume offers a fresh and original collection of primary sources on interwar European fascist movements. These sources reflect new approaches to fascism that emphasise the practical, transnational experience of fascism as a social movement, contextualising ideological statements within the historical moments they were produced. Divided into eighteen geographically based chapters, contributors draw together the history of different fascist and right-wing movements, selecting sources that reflect themes such as transnational ties, aesthetics, violence, female activism and the instrumentalisation of race, gender and religion. Each chapter provides a chronological, narrative account of movements interspersed with primary sources, from political speeches, police reports internal movement circulars and articles through to oral history, songs and music, photographs, artworks, poetry, and anti-fascist sources. The volume as a whole introduces readers to the diversity of fascist groups across the continent, demonstrating how fascist groups were constituted through social bonds, rather than around fixed ideologies, as such it captures the inexperience and ad-hoc character of early fascist groups. With an introduction that explains the volume’s theoretical approach and elaborates on the chronology of European fascism, European Fascist Movements is the perfect sourcebook for any student of Modern European history and politics.
  • Germany

    Grady, Tim; University of Chester
    This volume offers a fresh and original collection of primary sources on interwar European fascist movements. These sources reflect new approaches to fascism that emphasise the practical, transnational experience of fascism as a social movement, contextualising ideological statements within the historical moments they were produced. Divided into eighteen geographically based chapters, contributors draw together the history of different fascist and right-wing movements, selecting sources that reflect themes such as transnational ties, aesthetics, violence, female activism and the instrumentalisation of race, gender and religion. Each chapter provides a chronological, narrative account of movements interspersed with primary sources, from political speeches, police reports internal movement circulars and articles through to oral history, songs and music, photographs, artworks, poetry, and anti-fascist sources. The volume as a whole introduces readers to the diversity of fascist groups across the continent, demonstrating how fascist groups were constituted through social bonds, rather than around fixed ideologies, as such it captures the inexperience and ad-hoc character of early fascist groups. With an introduction that explains the volume’s theoretical approach and elaborates on the chronology of European fascism, European Fascist Movements is the perfect sourcebook for any student of Modern European history and politics.
  • European Fascist Movements: A Sourcebook

    Grady, Tim; Clark, Roland; University of Chester; University of Liverpool
    This volume offers a fresh and original collection of primary sources on interwar European fascist movements. These sources reflect new approaches to fascism that emphasise the practical, transnational experience of fascism as a social movement, contextualising ideological statements within the historical moments they were produced. Divided into eighteen geographically based chapters, contributors draw together the history of different fascist and right-wing movements, selecting sources that reflect themes such as transnational ties, aesthetics, violence, female activism and the instrumentalisation of race, gender and religion. Each chapter provides a chronological, narrative account of movements interspersed with primary sources, from political speeches, police reports internal movement circulars and articles through to oral history, songs and music, photographs, artworks, poetry, and anti-fascist sources. The volume as a whole introduces readers to the diversity of fascist groups across the continent, demonstrating how fascist groups were constituted through social bonds, rather than around fixed ideologies, as such it captures the inexperience and ad-hoc character of early fascist groups. With an introduction that explains the volume’s theoretical approach and elaborates on the chronology of European fascism, European Fascist Movements is the perfect sourcebook for any student of Modern European history and politics.
  • What's Wat's Dyke? Wrexham Comic Heritage Trail (English & Welsh Language Booklets)

    Williams, Howard; Swogger, John; University of Chester
    We hope this comic heritage trail for Wrexham helps introduce you to Britain's third-longest ancient monument
  • What’s Wat’s Dyke? Wrexham Comic Heritage Trail

    Williams, Howard; Swogger, John; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2021-10-26)
    The publication of the English version of the What's Wat's Dyke? comic in the Offa's Dyke Journal.
  • Rethinking Wat’s Dyke: a monument’s flow in a hydraulic frontier zone.

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2021-12-23)
    Britain’s second-longest early medieval monument – Wat’s Dyke – was a component of an early medieval hydraulic frontier zone rather than primarily serving as a symbol of power, a fixed territorial border or a military stop-line. Wat’s Dyke was not only created to monitor and control mobility over land, but specifically did so through its careful and strategic placement by linking, blocking and overlooking a range of watercourses and wetlands. By creating simplified comparative topographical maps of the key fluvial intersections and interactions of Wat’s Dyke for the first time, this article shows how the monument should not be understood as a discrete human-made entity, but as part of a landscape of flow over land and water, manipulating and managing anthropogenic and natural elements. Understanding Wat’s Dyke as part of a hydraulic frontier zone not only enhances appreciation of its integrated military, territorial, socio-economic and ideological functionality and significance, most likely the construction of the middle Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, it also theorises Wat’s Dyke as built to constitute and maintain control both across and along its line, and operating on multiple scales. Wat’s Dyke was built to manage localised, middle-range as well as long-distance mobilities via land and water through western Britain and beyond.
  • Collaboratory through crises: researching linear monuments in 2021

    Williams, Howard; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2021-12-29)
    This article introduces the third volume of the Offa’s Dyke Journal (ODJ). As well as reviewing ODJ 3’s contents, I present reviews of the journal received to date, notable new publications on linear monuments, and the Collaboratory’s key activities during 2021. The context and significance of the research network’s ongoing endeavours are presented set against intersecting academic and public crises affecting the study and public’s engagement with past frontiers and borderlands.
  • Dai Morgan Evans: a life in archaeology

    Williams, Howard; Musson, Chris; Young, Christopher; Cramp, Rosemary; James, Adrian; Evans, Sheena; University of Chester (Archaeopress, 2022-08-25)
    Born David Morgan Evans on 1 March (St David’s Day) 1944 at West Kirby on the Wirral, Dai grew up in Chester, where the history master at the King’s School encouraged his interest in local history (Figure 1). Summer holidays at St David’s in West Wales, and participation in local digs in Chester, ignited his lifelong passion for archaeology. He studied the subject at Cardiff University (1963–1966) before pursuing postgraduate research on the archaeology of early Welsh poetry (Figure 2a), as well as acting as an assistant director of the South Cadbury excavations led by Professor Leslie Alcock (Figure 2b). Dai’s working life began when he joined the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings in Wales in early 1969. During his time there, he conceived and initiated the creation of the four Welsh archaeological trusts, as their ‘true begetter.’1 In 1977, he transferred to the English Inspectorate. Charged, from 1986, with developing countryside policies, he also became the English Heritage (as it now was) specialist in Public Inquiries. From 1992 to his retirement in 2004, Dai was a popular and active General Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He co-devised the APPAG (All Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group) from 2001 and for a number of years served as its secretary after his retirement (2004–2008). From 2003, Dai was Honorary Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL. Having opened University College Chester’s new offices and teaching spaces in the Blue Coat School in 2003 to accommodate the Department of History and Archaeology, Dai served first as an honorary lecturer and then from 2006 as Visiting Professor of Archaeology, teaching and inspiring students and sustaining his research interests. His active retirement also included a host of other activities including television appearances, serving on the National Trust Archaeology Panel, participating in the historic-period dimension of the SPACES project with Geoff Wainwright and Timothy Darvill, and initiating the first modern study of the unique early medieval Welsh monument, the Pillar of Eliseg, at Llantysilio yn Iâl, Denbighshire. After a lifetime contributing to the archaeology of England and Wales, Dai sadly passed away on his birthday aged 73, 1 March 2017. Stemming from the memorial event held at the Society of Antiquaries of London, 11 September 2017: ‘Memorial for Professor Dai Morgan Evans FSA’,3 this multi-authored introduction charts Dai’s life in the service of archaeology. The authors cannot claim to cover all aspects of Dai’s archaeological endeavours, and inevitably the discussion affords depth to some aspects while mentioning others more briefly. However, the perspectives sequentially address different phases of his archaeological career and combine to capture a sense of his overall achievements and legacy. The chapter concludes with a brief introduction to this collection, which constitutes a celebration and memorial to Dai’s archaeological career and research.
  • Drawing the line: What’s Wat’s Dyke? Practice and process.

    Swogger, John; Williams, Howard; University of Chester (JAS Arqueologia, 2021-11-18)
    Often neglected and misunderstood, there are considerable challenges to digital and real-world public engagement with Britain’s third-longest linear monument, Wat’s Dyke (Williams 2020a). To foster public education and understanding regarding of Wat’s Dyke’s relationship to the broader story of Anglo-Welsh borderlands, but also to encourage the monument’s management and conservation, we proposed the creation of a comic heritage trail (Swogger and Williams 2020). Funded by the University of Chester and the Offa’s Dyke Association, we selected one prominent stretch where Wat’s Dyke is mainly damaged and fragmentary and yet also there remain well-preserved and monumental sections. Around Wrexham, Wat’s Dyke navigates varied topographies including following and crossing river valleys, and it is accessible to the public in the vicinity of North Wales’s largest town. In this article we outline the dialogue and decision-making process behind the map and 10-panel comic: What’s Wat’s Dyke? Wrexham Comic Heritage Trail (Swogger and Williams 2021; Williams and Swogger 2021a–b). In particular, we consider the stages taken to adapt from the initial plan of producing a bilingual map guide in response to the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. This digital resource, published online in Welsh and English, guides visitors and locals alike along a central stretch of Wat’s Dyke around Wrexham town from Bryn Alyn hillfort to the north to Middle Sontley to the south. The comic heritage trail thus responds to the highly fragmented nature of the monument and utilises the linearity of Wat’s Dyke as a gateway to explore the complex Anglo-Welsh borderlands from prehistory to the present day. Building on earlier discussions (Swogger 2019), What’s Wat’s Dyke? illustrates the potential of future projects which use comics to explore linear monuments and linear heritage features (from ancient trackways and roads to railways and canals) constructed across the world from prehistory to recent times.
  • Book Review: The Material Fall of Roman Britain, 300–525 CE, by Robin Fleming (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021; pp. 303. $45).

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2022-08-16)
    A review of Robin Fleming, The Material Fall of Roman Britain, 300–525 CE (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021).

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