The post-medieval period (c. AD 1450-present) received little attention from British archaeologists before the middle of the twentieth century. Accordingly, despite some occasional early engagements with early modern material, today British historical archaeology is a field with few ancestors; beginning during the 1950s, its short history still lies entirely within living memory, and some of its most significant developments have taken place since the mid-1990s. While the field has traditionally been dominated by English research and research agendas, the potential of Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish historical archaeology, and the complexities of 'British' historical archaeology, are increasingly recognized.
This review begins by considering the emergence of the field, through 'conservation and consolidation', during its first three decades (1950s-1970s). A second section considers the 'high period' of conventional British post-medieval and industrial archaeology during the 1970s and 1980s, and a third section considers the 'fragmentation and critique' that characterized the 1990s. A further section explores the emerging 'diversity' of historical archaeology since 2000, with particular emphasis upon current debates over heritage management, archaeologies of the recent and contemporary past, and the global and postcolonial contexts of British historical archaeology. Brief conclusions are provided.
2. Conservation and Consolidation
The emergence and development of British historical archaeology during its first three decades (1950s-1970s) occurred outside of the dominant museum and university institutions of prewar British archaeology. The process was driven by three successive, but overlapping impulses: the emergence of 'local studies', the rise of 'rescue archaeology', and increasing efforts toward the 'consolidation' of post-medieval and industrial archaeology as more established and respected fields of enquiry.
The first impulse, toward 'local studies', developed during the years of rapid social and material change that followed World War II, when public interest in the remains of local, industrial, and urban history grew markedly. Primarily an English (rather than British) phenomenon, it was driven by the efforts of avocational archaeologists, special interest groups, museum-based archaeologists, and Workers' Educational Association and university extramural tutors who ran classes in places such as Bristol, Birmingham, and Leicester. A number of distinctive approaches to studying the material remains of the recent past developed, grounded not in excavation but in field trips and 'parish surveys' which emphasized topographical survey and historic map analysis.
No firm distinctions between medieval, post-medieval, or industrial material generally existed in such work. Rather, the field was closely bound up with emerging concerns around conservation and the apparent destruction of the contemporary historic landscape. Local studies formed part of a new postwar rediscovery of the English countryside associated with the rise in private car ownership and changes in industrial manufacture. Particularly influential was the work of landscape historians Maurice Beresford (especially his 1957 book History on the Ground) and W. G. Hoskins (especially his 1967 book Fieldwork in Local History). Meanwhile, a distinctive tradition of Scottish rural settlement studies, exemplified by the work of Horace Fairhurst, also began to develop pointing out how little understood Scottish rural settlement was between the Iron Age and the eighteenth century. Such work laid the foundations for the historical landscape archaeology of the 1970s and 1980s (also discussed below).
While rural landscapes were the primary focus of local studies, the archaeological mitigation of the large motorway projects of the 1960s and 1970s virtually never engaged with post-medieval material, focusing instead upon prehistoric, medieval, and especially Romano-British material. A small number of influential rural excavation projects did nevertheless take place, usually focusing on the medieval/post-medieval transition. Most notable were the excavations at the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy in Yorkshire (abandoned during the early sixteenth century) which ran for successive summer seasons between 1950 and 1990 under the direction of John Hurst and Maurice Beresford; Michael Jarrett and Stuart Wrathmell's excavations at the village of West Whelpington in Northumberland (abandoned c. AD 1720); and Barry Cunliffe's combination of excavation and standing buildings recording at Manor Farm, Chalton, Hampshire between 1966 and 1972, which traced the development of the farm buildings from the thirteenth to the twentieth centuries.
The situation in the countryside was in stark contrast with that in English cities. In the face of the urban rebuilding programs that took place after the war, urban archaeological excavations were undertaken on an entirely new scale. While the work of the Guildhall Museum in London (from 1949) was particularly prominent, between the 1950s and 1970s urban excavation programs in Exeter, Southampton, Norwich, Leicester, Coventry, Bristol, Oxford and York, and Martin Biddle's excavations at Winchester, formed a crucial part of the development of post-medieval urban archaeology. While recent remains were still often removed in order to expose more valued medieval or Romano-British archaeological remains, the sheer quantities of post-medieval material culture that were recovered meant that museum-based archaeologists began to engage with it in post-excavation work for the first time. This laid the foundations for the development of the post-medieval material culture studies of the 1970s and 1980s (discussed below).
A third impulse, involving efforts toward disciplinary 'consolidation', developed from the early 1960s through new newsletters, conferences, societies, and publications. The prime movers in this process were museum-based archaeologists, who were gradually joined by archaeologists based in higher education institutions (usually in continuing education departments). The National Record of Industrial Monuments was established in the early 1960s, and involved a program of recording undertaken by local societies coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology. Through the efforts of archaeologists such as Phil Mayes and Ken Barton, the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology was founded in 1966, developing out of the Post-Medieval Ceramic Research Group which had been established at a meeting in Bristol in 1963. The Association for Industrial Archaeology was founded in 1973. Society journals were established - Post-Medieval Archaeology (from 1967) and Industrial Archaeology Review (from 1976), and for the first time, book-length studies were produced, especially popular regional studies of industrial archaeology and vernacular building traditions.
3. Post-Medieval and Industrial Archaeology
The 1970s and 1980s were dramatic times for British archaeology, with the rise of modern rescue archaeology, and the emergence of both processual and postprocessual theoretical approaches in Britain. But in many ways this was a slower, inward-looking period for British post-Roman archaeology, which came to be split between three period divisions - 'medieval archaeology' (c. AD 450-1450), 'post-medieval archaeology' (c. AD 1450-1750), and 'industrial archaeology' (c. AD 1750-1950). Despite such period distinctions, post-medieval and industrial archaeology saw a significant degree of consensus in relation to subject-matter, research agendas and disciplinary identity.
However, this consensus saw the earlier efforts toward consolidation now giving way to a disciplinary nervousness. The innovation of Hoskins, Beresford, and Hurst was replaced by purely descriptive studies that sought to provide material to contribute to interpretations drawn from a previous generation of economic and social historians. Thus, David Crossley's Post-Medieval Archaeology in Britain (1990) and the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology (SPMA)'s Research Priorities for Post-Medieval Archaeology (1988) focused upon the field's potential, through synthesis of the field's diverse range of data, to add to our understanding of early modern industrial and agricultural production, and demography. Meanwhile the third edition of Neil Cossons' BP Book of Industrial Archaeology (1987) and the Association for Industrial Archaeology's Industrial Archaeology: Working for the Future (1991) were not complemented by other studies that sought to expand the archaeology of more recent periods beyond the study of the remains of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century industrialization.
The pages of Post-Medieval Archaeology and Industrial Archaeology Review were filled with highly detailed and descriptive archaeological reports, and apart from occasional contributions to county archaeological journals the results of British historical archaeology were virtually never published outside these two publications. Despite these limitations, the 1970s and 1980s represented a crucial period in some respects. Through the work of many dedicated researchers, the earlier efforts toward consolidation were realized. These are summarized in the following.
Post-Medieval Material Culture Studies
During the 1970s and 1980s, the majority of post-medieval archaeology was focused upon material culture studies developed by museum-based archaeologists. In the place of previous 'connoisseur' studies of elite material culture, especially glassware, precious metalware, and ceramics, usually written for the antiques trade, much-needed typological sequences for post-medieval British and imported ceramics, clay pipes, glass, and to a lesser extent building materials and metalwares, were developed. These studies were complemented by the excavation of the sites of industrial production: ironworks, the production sites of nonferrous metals such as lead, tin, copper, copper alloys, ceramics, and glassworks. Publications such as Adrian Oswald's Clay Pipes for the Archaeologist (1975), Peter Davey's monograph series The Archaeology of the Clay Tobacco Pipe (1979-present), Richard Coleman Smith and Terry Pearson's Excavations in the Donyatt Potteries (1988), and Jacqueline Pearce's Border Wares (1993) provided crucial tools with which British historical archaeology could engage with material culture in a more sophisticated manner.
Historical Landscape Archaeology
While the simultaneous interest in medieval and early modern material became less common in most subfields of British historical archaeology in the 1970s and 1980s, it was retained in historical landscape archaeology. Here, the landscape was seen as a 'palimpsest' - akin to a document partially effaced and written over again many times. Thus, the contemporary nature of landscape archaeology was underlined, rather than the isolated study of particular chronological periods. In Scotland the term 'Medieval or later Rural Settlement Studies' was generally used, but in practice was characterized by an emphasis upon the medieval rather than the post-medieval. In England, the work of Christopher Dyer and Joan Thirsk at the Centre for English Local History at Leicester University, Mick Aston in the Department of Continuing Education at Bristol University, and later Tom Williamson at the University of East Anglia, was all influential. The perspectives of landscape historian Oliver Rackham, especially his History of the Countryside (1986) which emphasized the importance of fieldwork in the study of landscape, also influenced historical landscape archaeology.
Such work led to an increasingly wide range of nonintrusive field methodologies, incorporating air photograph interpretation, geophysical survey, and more controversial techniques such as M.D. Hooper's approach to dating medieval and post-medieval hedgerows by assessing the number of shrub species present within them. The journals Landscape History (from 1979) and Rural History (from 1989) provided important venues for the development of this field. Historical landscape archaeology was mainly focused upon agrarian landscapes - the study of 'river and wold' - and especially upon the evidence of agricultural 'improvement' and the long-term history of landscape enclosure. However, it also increasingly encompassed the studies of urban topography and the archaeology of parks and gardens. Mick Aston and James Bond's The Landscape of Towns (1976), for example, ranged from prehistoric and Romano-British contexts to Victorian and twentieth-century towns, and even to 'the future of towns'. Other researchers began to use the techniques of landscape archaeology to study British battlefields, leading to work such as Glenn Foard's 1995 study of the site of the Battle of Naseby (1651) in Northamptonshire. Meanwhile, gardens archaeology emerged as a new field of enquiry during the 1980s, especially in the context of historical restoration. Particularly influential were Chris Currie and Martin Locock's excavations at Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens in Birmingham in the late 1980s, and Brian Dix's excavations in the early 1990s in advance of the restoration of the Privy Garden at Hampton Court (built 1701-2).
From the mid-1950s, Industrial Archaeology had developed in parallel with Local Studies: also through the Workers' Educational Association and University extra-mural departments, but through a largely separate community of enthusiasts from a different range of backgrounds - craftsmen, industrial managers, and particularly engineers interested in the history of their own industries. The 1970s and 1980s saw an increasingly wide range of work in industrial archaeology, particularly in the publication of regional surveys of industrial remains, and field studies of the production sites for items of material culture regularly excavated by archaeologists (ceramics, glass, metalwork, etc.). Industrial archaeologists also increasingly examined other industrial sites such as coal and tin mines, textile mills, and transportation networks such as roads, canals, and railways. Landscape approaches were also extended into the archaeology of industrial landscapes through Jeremy Lowe and Martin Lawlor's 1982 study 'Landscapes of the iron industry' at Blaenavon in Gwent, Wales, Judith Alfrey and Kate Clark's 'Nuffield Survey' of the Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire during the late 1980s, and by Marilyn Palmer and Peter Neaverson's Industrial Landscapes of the East Midlands (1992). This work has been increasingly influential. For example, in the 1990s in Wales, Stephen Hughes' work with the Welsh Royal Commission demonstrated the potential of the landscape archaeology of industrial landscapes through his work in the lower Swansea Valley in South Wales this 'Copperopolis' developed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and ranged from industrial copper works which included a massive smelting hall known as the 'Great Workhouse', to other industrial processes, including porcelain manufacture, and roadways, wooden railways, and a commercial wharf.
The archaeological study of post-1500 buildings also developed during this period. Vernacular architectural studies were catalyzed by Ronald William Brunskill's Illustrated Handbook of Vernacular Architecture (1970) and Eric Mercer's Vernacular Houses (1975). Scholars such as J.T. Smith examined the transition from medieval open halls to new post-medieval forms, inspired especially by W. G. Hoskins' (1953) notion of a 'Great Rebuilding': a theme developed upon by Matthew Johnson's study of Housing Culture: Traditional Architecture in an English Landscape (1993). Elsewhere in the UK, the archaeological study of many other kinds of buildings - from polite houses to institutions such as workhouses, schools, hospitals, and military structures - developed. The study of military architecture also developed, especially after the formation of the Fortress Study Group in 1975. The potential of studying workers' housing was also increasingly recognized, especially in Royal Commission volumes such as Roger Leech's Early Industrial Housing: The Trinity Area of Frome, Somerset (1981) and Lucy Caffyn's landmark 1986 study of Workers' Housing in West Yorkshire, 1750-1920. Temporary housing was also examined, as with Michael Morris' study of the ephemeral traces of the navvy huts used by road, railway, and canal construction workers (see Figure above).
While the archaeology of churches and churchyards grew in importance during the 1970s, especially through the efforts of Warwick Rodwell and Richard Morris, a focus upon medieval, rather than post-medieval, remains continued to characterize the field. A notable exception was the studies of gravestones across Britain developed by Harold Mytum. The archaeology of post-medieval death and burial was also generally neglected, with cemeteries usually cleared without appropriate archaeological mitigation. This began to change during the 1980s, an important watershed being the Museum of London excavation directed by Jez Reeve of 968 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century burials from the crypt of Christ Church, Spitalfields in London between 1984 and 1986. As Margaret Cox has suggested, the project raised crucial ethical, bureaucratic and intellectual issues around the treatment of the dead in the recent past: issues which have informed the subsequent development of forensic archaeology (discussed below).
Historical Maritime Archaeology
In the rapid development of maritime archaeology in Britain from the 1970s, the study of material dating from after AD 1500 has played an important role. In Scotland, two underwater archaeology projects played a central role in the development of scientific approaches to wreck site formation processes: Keith Muckelroy's excavations of the Kennemerland, a Dutch East Indiaman wrecked off the Shetland Islands (conducted between 1973 and 1977), and Colin Martin's excavations of the Dartmouth, a British frigate wrecked off the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. The most high-profile and intensive underwater archaeology project ever undertaken in Britain was also a historical maritime archaeology project: the raising in 1982 of Henry VIII's warship the Mary Rose (which was built in 1509-1510, and sank in the Solent on the south coast of England in 1545). The Mary Rose project not only yielded crucial information about sixteenth-century ship construction but also many well-preserved personal and domestic items of material culture. Meanwhile, scholars such as Sean McGrail and Basil Greenhill used British and Irish historical ethnographic and documentary material to examine the ethnoarchaeology of shipbuilding traditions. The study of terrestrial maritime landscapes also developed, especially through Gustav Milne's seminal excavations of the waterfront of medieval and post-medieval London for the Museum of London in the mid-1970s and late-1980s.
4. Fragmentation and Critique
By the late 1980s the subfields outlined above were growing in confidence, coherence, and critical mass. However, virtually no new researchers and practitioners or researchers had joined British historical archaeology: the generation of archaeologists that emerged during the 1970s and 1980s (trained in the new undergraduate degrees in archaeology) overwhelmingly turned instead to prehistoric or world archaeology. From the outside, British historical archaeology appeared to be an intellectually isolated and stagnant field in which a dry consensus had developed around purely descriptive modes of research. In this context, from around 1990 a number of factors combined to bring 'fragmentation and critique'.
Fragmentation resulted in part from the new commercial archaeological environment that developed after the changes to the Department of Environment's Planning Policy Guidance (PPG 16) in 1990. During the 1990s, competitive tendering and the emergence of a new kind of commercial archaeological contractor radically changed the positions of museum-based city archaeological units in which post-medieval material culture studies and urban excavation had developed during the 1970s and 1980s. In the new commercial environment, a new generation of larger, national-based archaeological units emerged. This made the previous development of integrated overviews of urban post-medieval archaeology produced by museum-based archaeologists much more difficult, especially outside London. Meanwhile as the decade progressed, the conventional internal disciplinary boundaries of British historical archaeology were increasingly questioned from within.
This was most visible in the conference activities of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, driven in particular through the work of professional and museum-based archaeologists, laid many of the foundations for this process. Through the efforts of David Gaimster, Geoff Egan, and David Cranstone, the society held joint conferences with the Society for Medieval Archaeology in London in 1996 on the theme of The Age of Transition: The Archaeology of English Culture 1400-1600, with the US-based Society for Historical Archaeology in London and Williamsburg, Virginia in 1997 on the theme of Old and New Worlds, and a joint conference with the Association for Industrial Archaeology at Bristol University in 1999 on the theme of Archaeology and Industrialization. These meetings served to problematize conventional boundaries that had developed during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and focused the attention of historical archaeologists upon significant processes that fell across conventional chronological divisions, such as the archaeology of the 'reformation', the reuse of monastic lands and buildings after the 'dissolution' (1536-1540), or the social history of industrialization. From 1995 the conventional neglect of the twentieth-century British archaeology was challenged by the 7-year Council for British Archaeology's Defence of Britain Project through which around 600 volunteers recorded almost 20000 twentieth-century military sites across Britain.
Meanwhile 'critique' developed from researchers based in higher education institutions, particularly archaeologists who studied as doctoral students at the University of Cambridge during the late 1980s and early 1990s such as Matthew Johnson, Sarah Tarlow, John Carman, Gavin Lucas, and Victor Buchli. The extension of the principles of 'ethnoarchaeology' into an examination of very recent and contemporary British material culture - mortuary practices in Victorian England and modern Cambridge, modernism and suburbia, pet food factories or beer can designs - had been an important point of departure for the postprocessual turn of 1980s Cambridge.
Such work used modern or contemporary material rhetorically - to make broader theoretical arguments about material culture rather than to contribute to the historical study of recent periods. Indeed, from the early 1990s Chris Tilley, Daniel Miller, and others rejected archaeological approaches, seeking instead to develop anthropological 'material culture studies' as a separate field. At the same time, however, others began to use interpretive approaches to critique the descriptive consensus of British historical archaeology. An early statement was Kate Clark's diagnosis of 'Trouble at t'Mill' for 1980s industrial archaeology, published in Antiquity in 1987. But it was not until the second half of the 1990s that a genuine watershed in British historical archaeology came about with Matthew Johnson's An Archaeology of Capitalism (1996), Sarah Tarlow's Bereavement and Commemoration (1999), and Sarah Tarlow and Susie West's edited collection The Familiar Past? Archaeologies of Later Historical Britain (1999). These volumes questioned interdisciplinary boundaries, and sought to develop a 'social archaeology' of early modern material: variously applying the sociological perspectives of Bourdieu and Giddens, literary theory and Foucault, structuralist analyses of social space, and anthropological theories of consumption in conventional post-medieval contexts. The literary bent of such studies sometimes weakened their engagement with materiality, critiquing previous uses of archaeology to illustrate processes defined by social and economic history but replacing such studies with similar illustrations of social theory. Nevertheless, the importance of these studies lay in their emphasis of interpretive as well as purely descriptive approaches, and their inspiration of a new generation of archaeologists to start work on British historical archaeology.
5. Diversity (1999-Present)
Today, the picture presented in David Crossley's 1990 book Post-Medieval Archaeology in Britain is unrecognizable. Since the turn of the millennium, the field has responded to fragmentation and critique by developing diversity, a renewed self-confidence in the distinctive perspectives of archaeology in all its forms, and its abilities to combine alternative approaches. While the complex processes that have contributed to the present situation are still in the process of becoming clear, they are sketched in this section. The year 2000 saw the publication of a landmark document by English Heritage, Power of Place: The Future of the Historic Environment, which included the results of a major MORI survey of public attitudes to heritage in England. The document highlighted two interrelated phenomena: how many people, especially among the Black and Asian communities, felt excluded from heritage, and how for many people the remains of the recent past - which often formed part of the everyday built environment in which they lived - represented valued aspects of the heritage. Since then, the potential for historical archaeology to engage with issues of public value and social inclusion has been an important inspiration for historical archaeologists. One emerging theme in such studies is the archaeology of British identity.
The past 500 years have witnessed the historical emergence and changing limits of 'Britain'/the United Kingdom. Through the Acts of Union of 1707 which brought together England and Scotland to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Act of Union of 1800 which brought Northern Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the British nation was, in historian Linda Colley's double-edged term, 'forged' during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Behind these legislative processes lay complex medieval and early modern developments: the personal union between the Irish Parliament and Henry VIII (1541), the Laws in Wales Acts (1535-1542) which brought together England and Wales, the establishment of English plantations in Ulster plantation after the Nine Years War (1594-1603). Such processes also continued into the twentieth century, with the division of Belfast and Derry/Londonderry from the rest of Ireland, forming Northern Ireland, in 1920-1921, and the establishment of the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly in 1998 - bringing the repeal of the Government of Ireland Act of 1920 and the end of direct rule from Westminster. Cutting across these processes, British culture has continually benefited from the arrival of immigrant populations during the post-medieval period - especially from continental Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and southern and eastern Asia.
A number of British historical archaeologists have begun to develop studies that combine an archaeological examination of these historical processes with an awareness of contemporary politics. Jim Gard’ner's 2004 study of heritage among the Bangladeshi community in east London and Sian Jones' studies of the complex relationships between Scottish heritage and memorialization have been especially influential here. The plantation archaeology of Ulster, and of the Munster plantation in contemporary southern Ireland (established during the 1580s), holds great potential to explore similar themes, but remains underdeveloped despite recent engagements by American archaeologists Audrey Horning and James Delle. Others, such as Matthew Johnson, have pointed to the potential of a postcolonial archaeology of Britain. In this vein, Dan Hicks has sought to trace the influence of colonial history upon British landscapes and material culture through his fieldwork at the garden of mid-eighteenth-century Atlantic merchant Thomas Goldney III in Clifton, Bristol. In her 2003 edited collection Archaeologies of the British, Australian archaeologist Susan Lawrence placed studies of British identity and regionality undertaken by archaeologists such as Alasdair Brooks, Pamela Graves, Adrian Green, Matthew Johnson, and James Symonds in the United Kingdom in global comparative perspective.
The 2000s have also seen a number of challenges to the conventional neglect of twentieth-century (and even more recent) archaeology. Victor Buchli and Gavin Lucas' edited collection Archaeologies of the Contemporary Past (2001) was highly influential here, especially the editors' own study of an abandoned council house in Cambridgeshire. In a radical departure from the rhetorical use of archaeologies of the recent past in postprocessual archaeology, Buchli and Lucas eloquently demonstrated the potential for archaeological methods to be used to contribute to the social scientific study of homelessness, drug use and the effectiveness of housing policy. The social usefulness of archaeologies of the recent and contemporary past have also been clearly demonstrated in the rapid development of forensic archaeology in Britain, especially through the work of Margaret Cox.
The annual meetings of the Contemporary and Historical Archaeology in Theory (CHAT) group, convened in 2003, have provided a venue for the development of such 'contemporary archaeology' alongside more conventional historical archaeology. The archaeology of the sixteenth-nineteenth centuries has also seen renewed attention, especially in the work of museum-based archaeologists such as Geoff Egan in London and David Barker in Stoke-on-Trent who have continued to develop sophisticated studies of post-medieval material culture studies; in studies of the reception of medieval buildings in the early post-medieval period such as the work of Kate Giles; and in Chris Dalglish's studies of the landscape archaeology of improvement in eighteenth-century Argyll. Meanwhile, especially through the work of John Schofield, twentieth-century archaeology has been developed further in military archaeology - a field in which archaeologists have studied Cold War military sites, the remains of antinuclear peace camps and wall art as well as more conventional World War I and World War II remains - and in other aspects of twentieth-century archaeology.
Image: Mid twentieth-century wall art on the walls of a prisoner of war camp in Lincolnshire. showing Mickey and Minnie Mouse (photo courtesy of Roger J. C. Thomas)
Here, archaeological survey methods have been increasingly combined with oral historical and documentary research - most vividly in Laura McAtackney's study of the archaeology of the Long Kesh/Maze prison site in Northern Ireland, which is now decommissioned. Twentieth-century archaeology has also proved a fertile area for public archaeology projects, which involve members of local communities in field projects, such as Eleanor Conlin Casella's excavation of two cottages at Alderley Edge, Cheshire and Gabriel Moshenska's oral historical research around the Museum of London community excavation of the remains of bombed-out Victorian terraced houses at Shoreditch Park in east London.
Since the mid-1990s, historical archaeology in Britain has witnessed a radical phase of debate and growth. While the literary, interpretive critique of the 1990s was a useful and overdue catalyst, today it is the emergence of field projects that combine empirical and interpretive perspectives, and often political and community engagement, that makes the prospects for the field so strong.
The most successful of these involve new kinds of partnership between archaeologists based in the commercial, museums, and higher education sectors, as with the Alderley Edge project discussed above. James Symonds and Anna Badcock at the Archaeological Research Consultancy at the University of Sheffield have recently developed a number of innovative new studies in historical archaeology from development-funded excavations, including Symonds' 2002 edited volume The Historical Archaeology of the Sheffield Cutlery and Tableware Industry 1750-1900. Similarly, the Museum of London's excavation in 1989 of the site of the Rose Theatre in Southwark, London (constructed 1587) has produced important new interdisciplinary perspectives upon theatre history.
While further projects and publications of this kind develop, many challenges remain. British historical archaeology has not yet developed field projects that engage with the untold histories of ethnic minorities, working class communities or household situations that have been addressed in North American, South African, or Australasian historical archaeology. The historical archaeology of gender and sexuality in Britain, explored so successfully by medieval archaeologists such as Roberta Gilchrist, remains underdeveloped. Few book-length studies in the new British contemporary and historical archaeology have been written. The field's center of gravity in London and southeast England remains insufficiently counterbalanced by the development of historical archaeologies in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, in northern and western England, and in cities such as Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, and Glasgow. The potential of building partnerships between different archaeological communities (commercial, higher educational, governmental, museum-based, avocational) remains underexplored. Nevertheless, as the field continues to build upon the solid foundations laid in the second half of the twentieth century, British historical archaeology has emerged as one of the most dynamic and exciting fields in contemporary European archaeology.
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