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

  • When They Get to the Border

    Ewence, Hannah; University of Chester
    The Aliens Act of 1905 was the culmination of decades of anxiety about migrants – some of whom attempted to reach Britain by clandestine means.
  • Touching, feeling, smelling and sensing history through objects. New Opportunities from the 'material turn'

    Bird, Michael; Wilson, Katherine Anne; Egan-Simon, Daryn; Jackson, Alannah; Kirkup, Richard; University of Chester
    Lots has been written in recent years about how history teachers can bring academic scholarship into the classroom. Here, this interest in academic practice a step further, examining how pupils can engage directly with the kinds of sources to which historians are increasingly turning their attention is highlighted. Building on a funded research network that brought together academic history and art history departments, Michael Bird and his co-authors worked with museum curators and trainee teachers to bring artefacts from the rich (but often overlooked) collections of their local museum into schools.
  • Textiles: 1400-1700

    Wilson, Katherine Anne; University of Chester
    A summary of Textiles 1400-1700.
  • Commerce and Consumers: The Ubiquitous Chest of the Late Middle Ages

    Wilson, Katherine Anne; University of Chester
    Contrary to their ubiquity within written, visual, and material sources, chests have largely remained overlooked in studies of the late Middle Ages. Bill Brown’s “thing theory” helps to explain the ways in which chests can transform from unnoticed “things” in the background to meaningful “objects” when viewed through their entanglements with commercial, consumer, political, and moral concerns. The interdisciplinary study of chests in the late Middle Ages brings together a range of evidence including inventories, guild accounts, court pleas, contemporary writings, images, and material culture from Burgundy, France, and England.
  • From Celebrating Diversity to British Values: The Changing Face of Holocaust Memorial Day in Britain

    Critchell, Kara; University of Chester
    2021 marks the twentieth anniversary of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) in Britain. In the two decades since the inaugural ceremony took place successive British government have sought to position themselves at the very forefront of Holocaust remembrance and education on a national, international, and supranational, level. As such, the Holocaust has emerged as a dominant socio-political symbol in twenty-first century Britain even though the event intersects with the British experience in few ways, in part, due to the lack of connections the country has to the sites of deportation or extermination. Though the increase in activities for HMD suggests a growing engagement with the Holocaust in British society this obscures the complex discourses surrounding the day, and inherent tensions that have existed within it since its inception in 1999. This chapter explores some of these by tracing the shift in Holocaust remembrance in Britain since the establishment of HMD in 2001, considering the political tensions surrounding it and the changing politicised messages being promoted by it. It is the position of this chapter that, evermore, HMD is being utilised as a means by which to evoke specific values for the furthering of very particular political agendas.
  • The Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment: The Development of British Airborne Technology, 1940-1950

    Jenkins, Tim; Univeristy of Chester
    The evolution of British airborne warfare cannot be fully appreciated without reference to the technological development required to convert the detail contained in the doctrine and concept into operational reality. Airborne Forces Experimental Establishment is a detailed investigation of the British technological investment in an airborne capability and analyses whether the new technology was justifiable, or indeed, entirely achievable.
  • Fortress Salopia: Exploring Shropshire's Military History from the Prehistoric Period to the Twentieth Century

    Jenkins, Tim; Abbiss, Rachael; University of Chester
    Fortress Salopia is the culmination of contributions from heritage and historic professionals, practising archaeologists and academic historians that explores the unique military past of the county of Shropshire from the prehistoric period to the 20th century. Shropshire is one of the most characteristic counties of the Welsh Marches and occupied a strategic position between England and Wales. Consequently, the county boasts the highest numbers of Iron Age hillforts in England and the greatest density of Motte & Bailey castles. The archaeological remains that adorn the landscape are a prescient reminder that Shropshire was once a frontier battleground, although such reminders are often lost amongst the picturesque rural landscape that prevails today.
  • Archaeologies of rules and regulation: between text and practice

    Williams, Howard; orcid: 0000-0003-3510-6852 (Informa UK Limited, 2020-04-30)
  • Plants as persons: perceptions of the natural world in the North European Mesolithic

    Taylor, Barry; University of Chester (Taylor and Francis, 2020-09-08)
    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 (Taylor & Francis, 2020-04-27)
    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.

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