School of History, Classics and Archaeology

Ben Morton

Ben Morton

Understanding the dynamics of medieval landscape change in England c.800 to c.1600.

Subject area: Archaeology
Supervisors: Professor Sam Turner, Dr Chris Fowler

PhD outline

From the 16th century onwards writers began to note differences in the character of the English countryside.

A key one being the distinction between ‘champion’ landscapes of villages and vast open fields, and ‘bosky’ wood-pasture landscapes in which hamlets predominated and open field cultivation tended to be more limited in extent, with most land being enclosed.

My research is focused on trying to understand the origins of these differences, which to varying degrees still underpin the character of the English landscape.

In the past scholars believed that patterns of ‘Dark Age’ settlement could account for the origins of landscape character.

Such ethno-centric explanations have long been discarded, and instead scholars have proposed a series of social and environmental factors to explain landscape origins.

My research is focused on reviewing present models for medieval landscape change, specifically those explaining the origins of medieval common property regimes, such as common fields, and of nucleated and dispersed rural settlement.

Additionally, much of my work is focused upon identifying the social and material factors which lead to the dissolution of common property regimes in the medieval period, such as the enclosure of common land, and what implications this had for rural settlement.

Funded by: AHRC Northern Bridge Consortium

Academic qualifications

BA First Class in History and Archaeology (University of Leicester, 2003-06)
MSc Distinction in Applied Landscape Archaeology (University of Oxford, 2006-08)

Awards and funding

AHRC Full Studentship (Northern Bridge Consortium)


Committee Member of the Medieval Settlement Research Group (Since 2014)
Membership Validation Committee Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (Since 2013)

Conference papers

‘Religious objects and the production of medieval space’ paper delivered at the Theoretical Archaeology Group Conference, Bradford University, (2015).
‘A practice-based approach to understanding traditional buildings in an English parish’ paper delivered at the Vernacular Architecture Group Conference, University of Leicester, (2014).