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ARA3031 : Historical Archaeology of Britain 1500-Present

  • Offered for Year: 2021/22
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Jane Webster
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


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, 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
Part 2: The Industrial era c.1750-1900
Part 3: The 20th and 21st centuries

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:0011 lectures PiP
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion551:0055:00N/A
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials51:005:00Counts as contact hrs
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical62:0012:00PinP
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading331:0033:003 hrs p/week from module reading list
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching51:005:00Seminars (PiP)
Structured Guided LearningStructured research and reading activities113:0033:003hrs of set reading weekly (seminars/practicals)
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study461:0046:00Consolidatation of learning, additional reading, reflection
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures (synchronous and pre-recorded offer a broad (largely chronological) overview of the historical archaeology of Britain after 1500. Seminars examine one aspect of that week’s overview in greater depth. These sessions are designed to tie in to, and support, the two module assessments. Advance preparatory work (set reading, with a reading quiz on Canvas) is required for the seminars. The 6 practical sessions involve ‘hands on’ study of artefacts in museum collections, and/or historical documents, requiring some additional PinP hours for this module.

Seminars and practicals encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability.

In the event that on-campus sessions need to be reduced, there is the capacity to present recorded materials asynchronously and retain timetabled slots for live discussion of these materials.

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)
Written exercise1A50Assessed 20th Century Artefact Biography (2,000 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Computer assessment1MWeekly Canvas quiz on lecture/seminar reading (no word count)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, and develops key skills in research, reading and writing. The formative assessment supports the development of Assessment 1, offering students the opportunity to reflect on their bibliographic choices, and on shaping the structure of their written work. Assessment 2 (20th Century Artefact Biography) develops additional skils including oral interviewing (of family members) and the use of reading from disciplines outside Archaeology.

All of the assessments for this module will be submitted and marked online.

Reading Lists