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

  • 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
    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.
  • 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).
  • Were Early Medieval Lists Bureaucratic? The Whitby Abbot's Book, Folios 1r-4v

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester
    Since the Enlightenment, early medieval lists have been removed from their original manuscript contexts and sometimes interpreted as artefacts of royal and ecclesiastical bureaucracy. Despite critical engagement with the idea of early medieval bureaucracy and recent emphasis on the material and literary characteristics of lists, the idea of bureaucratic origins remains. This paper focuses on the Whitby Abbot’s Book, folios 1r-4v, a perhaps incomplete quire written after 1176, comprising a book list, a story of refoundation with accompanying property lists, an abbatial oath, and a story of abbatial elections including a list of monks. It uses approaches to bureaucracy, administrative history, and memory to reflect on this case study and on cultures of listing.
  • The Social History of a Medieval Fish Weir, c. 600-2020

    Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Taylor & Francis, 2021-10-27)
    This paper presents the longue durée social history of a medieval fish weir. It reveals the significant role of fishing and fish weirs in the construction and reconstruction of social structures and cultural identities. It focuses on an enigmatic annual ceremony – the construction of the Horngarth or Penny Hedge at Whitby, North Yorkshire. It begins by arguing that this descends from the construction of a medieval intertidal fish weir. It then explores the possible social and cultural contexts in which it originated and the social and cultural circumstances that perpetuated its construction to the sixteenth century. It proceeds to consider the social and cultural changes that undermined its original function and transformed its significance in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries, and how an invented tradition about it became important to the local identity and national reputation of the town.
  • 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.

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