Module Catalogue 2015/16

ARA3031 : Historical Archaeology of Britain 1500-Present

  • Offered for Year: 2015/16
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jane Webster
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module focuses on the archaeology of the period 1500-present within the British Isles. It begins with an examination of the ‘consumer revolution’ after 1500, and looks at the role of archaeology in studying artefacts and consumer tastes in the early modern period. We then move on to look at archaeological approaches to key changes in British landscapes and townscapes from 1500-1800, and include here an examination of the impact of the dissolution of the monasteries, the Civil War, and colonial expansion ‘at home’ in Britain.

The middle section of the course looks at the Industrial era (c.1750-1900), exploring the aims and methods of industrial archaeology (an archaeological discipline in its own right), and looking at the social changes resulting from industrialisation. The final part of the course explores the archaeology of the 20th and 21st centuries, focusing on changing attitudes to death after 1900, the First and Second World Wars, and the emerging archaeology of modern mass consumerism.

Throughout this module we make use of contemporary documentary sources (from probate inventories to factory inspectors reports), examining the ways in which historical archaeologists utilise these documents alongside excavation data in writing the history of the recent past. We also examine the relationship between archaeology and heritage presentation, exploring the sometimes contentious issues that surround the public presentation of recent historical phenomena.

The aims of this module are:
1. To develop students’ knowledge and understanding of the material culture of the period 1500-present
2. To expand students’ understanding of the relationship between documentary sources and archaeological data that characterises historical archaeology as a discipline
3. To examine and engage in debates about the range of interpretative frameworks available for modelling cultural change in Britain after 1500
4. To foster an understanding of the role of archaeology in studying the very recent past

Outline Of Syllabus

Part 1: From medieval to modern: the changing face of Britain c.1500-1750
A Lec       Introduction to the course/defining ‘post-medieval’ and ‘historical’ archaeology
B Lec       ‘Consumerism and the global world of ‘things’ c.1500-1750
A Lec       Artefact studies: themes, issues and approaches
B Lec       Willow Pattern: reading ceramics from the inside out
A Lec Tudor landscapes: the archaeology of houses and gardens
B Lec       The first colony: historical archaeology in Ireland

Part 2:The Industrial era c.1750-1900
A Lec       James Deetz in the UK: the archaeology of the Georgian period (1714-1830) (20/10/2014)
C Sem Reading Deetz and Johnson: Georgian Architecture (21/10/2014)
A Lec       Landscape change in the age of ‘improvement’: from enclosure to the polite landscape
B Lec History and heritage in the slave trade port cities
A Lec       Industrial archaeology in the UK today: aims, themes and issues
B Sem       Steel city: the archaeology of Sheffield
A Lec       The archaeology of the post-medieval dead
B Sem       Grave concerns – Spitalfields and its impact on the archaeology of the recent dead
A Lec The archaeology of 19th century labour
B Sem The Mill
Part 3: The 20th and 21st centuries
A Lec       The contemporary past: themes and issues in 20th and 21st century archaeology
B Lec       What is artefact biography?
A Lec       The archaeology of industrialised warfare: WW1, WW2 and beyond
B Sem:       Artefact biography: two detailed case studies (
A Sem       20th century artefact studies
B Lec       Christmas: a material culture history
Two essay writing classes A Bibliographies and referencing and B Proofreading

There are also six 2 hr practical classes, taking place every other week:

Using historical documents: a guide to available resources
How to make a cup of tea: exploring the tea ritual in England
Ovenstone miners’ cottages I: researching 19th century household goods
Ovenstone miners’ cottages II: researching 19th century household goods
18th century graves and how to record them
How to eat your dinner: the material culture of dining practices from 1600-1900

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

•       Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding at an intensive level of selected aspects of the archaeology of Britain from 1500-present.
•       Students will demonstrate a detailed awareness of the role of archaeology in expanding our understanding of the period 1500-present
•       Students will be familiar with a variety of interpretative frameworks for modelling cultural change in the period 1500-present, and will show an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of these models.
•       Students will demonstrate knowledge and understanding of selected national and regional archaeological remains and heritage resources

Intended Skill Outcomes

In order to complete the module successfully, all students must demonstrate that they have developed skills in:

•       Reading, understanding, critiquing historical and archaeological data
•       Analysing and evaluating archaeologists’ use of evidence.
•       Critical reading and reasoning, sustained discussion and appropriate presentation of results
•       The recognition and interpretation of selected artefact categories
•       An ability to appreciate the political and social significance of selected archaeological remains, and to take a responsible attitude to their study, interpretation, preservation and presentation

Graduate Skills Framework

Graduate Skills Framework Applicable: Yes
  • Cognitive/Intellectual Skills
    • Critical Thinking : Assessed
    • Data Synthesis : Assessed
    • Active Learning : Present
    • Literacy : Assessed
    • Information Literacy
      • Source Materials : Present
      • Synthesise And Present Materials : Assessed
  • Self Management
    • Self Awareness And Reflection : Present
    • Planning and Organisation
      • Goal Setting And Action Planning : Present
      • Decision Making : Assessed
    • Personal Enterprise
      • Innovation And Creativity : Present
      • Initiative : Present
      • Independence : Present
      • Problem Solving : Assessed
  • Interaction
    • Communication
      • Oral : Present
      • Interpersonal : Present
      • Written Other : Assessed
    • Team Working
      • Collaboration : Present
      • Relationship Building : Present
      • Negotiation : Present
  • Application
    • Social Cultural Global Awareness : Present

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture181:0018:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:001/3 of guided independent studies
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading551:0055:001/3 of guided independent studies
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical62:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching61:006:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study541:0054:001/3 of guided independent studies
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures offer a broad overview of the historical archaeology of one of four selected case-studies areas. Seminars examine one aspect of that week’s overview in greater depth. These sessions always involve some group work, and are designed to tie in to, and support, the set written work. Advance (group) preparatory work is required for the seminars. The 6 practical sessions involve ‘hands on’ study of artefacts in museum collections, and/or historical documents.
The lectures provide a broad overview of the historical archaeology of the period/theme under study. The seminars and practical sessions will examine one aspect of that week’s overview in greater depth. These are designed to tie in to, and support, the set written work.
Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills
and adaptability.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M50Assessed Essay (2,000 words) due Week 8, Semester 1
Written exercise1M50Assessed 20th Century Artefact Biography (2,000 words) due Week 12, Semester 1
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Assessment 2 (20th Century Artefact Biography) comprises a study of 20th century artefacts, and in most cases will involve oral interviews with grandparents, parents, elderly friends etc. Students study a ‘display group’ (for example, items on a windowsill, or a mantelpiece) and undertake research (including where possible the recording of oral memories) on the identity and transmission histories of the items, and the associated memories of those who have owned/known them. As an alternative, students can select a single war memorial and carry out research on the memorial, and selected individuals named on it.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

This module can be made available to Erasmus students only with the agreement of the Head of Subject and of the Module Leader. This option must be discussed in person at the beginning of your exchange period. No restrictions apply to study-abroad, exchange and Loyola students.

All exchange students at Newcastle University including Erasmus, study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola are warmly encouraged to do the same assessment as the domestic students unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the option of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of domestic students. If they wish to take up this option, students need to discuss it with their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them.

Students who opt for the alternative assessment because they will have to leave Newcastle University before the assessment period (excluding Erasmus students, who are contractually obliged to be at Newcastle until the end of the semester) should hand in their 3000-word essays before they go away. If this is not possible, they should tell the School exchange coordinator that they are going to submit their essays in absentia, then submit their essays through Blackboard and email copies of the essays to the School Office ( Any essay received after the deadline will be considered as a late submission.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Note: The Module Catalogue now reflects module information relating to academic year 15/16. Please contact your School Office if you require module information for a previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.