Thursday, 8 October 2009

Defining Moments: dramatic archaeologies of the 20th century

image: Television aerials on the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century roofs of Poble Sec (Barcelona). From Martin Brown's chapter 'From Ally Pally to Big Brother: Television makes viewers of us all' in Defining Moments (Archaeopress 2009)

The latest (5th) book in the Studies in Contemporary and Historical Archaeology series (series edited by myself and Josh Pollard) will be launched at the CHAT 09 conference next week. Edited by John Schofield, it presents 16 reflections on the archaeology of 'defining moments' of the 20th century. More about the series here

The contents, list of contributors and our series editors' preface are below. The book can be ordered direct from Hadrian Books -

(ed. John Schofield, 2009. Oxford: Archaeopress. Studies in Contemporary and Historical Archaeology 5. ISBN 978 1 4073 0581 3. £35.00)


1 1115 hrs, 24 June 2008. Drama and the moment (John Schofield)

2 1230 hrs, 12 December 1901. Marconi’s first transatlantic wireless message (Cassie Newland)

3 1140 hrs, 14 April 1912. The case of the RMS Titanic (David Miles)

4 1 July 1916. The Battle of the Somme and the machine gun myth (Paul Cornish)

5 11 August 1921. The discovery of insulin (E M Tansey)

6 2 October 1925. From Ally Pally to Big Brother: Television makes viewers of us all (Martin Brown)

7 1 June 1935. The introduction of compulsory driving tests in the United Kingdom: The neglected role of the state in motoring (John Beech)

8 Commentary: Visions of the twentieth century (Cornelius Holtorf)

9 16/17 May 1943. Operation Chastise: The raid on the German dams (Richard Morris)

10 1130 hrs, 29 May 1953. Because it’s there: The ascent of Everest (Paul Graves-Brown)

11 2228:34 hrs (Moscow Time), 4 October 1957. The Space Age begins: The launch of Sputnik I, Earth’s first artificial satellite (Greg Fewer)

12 11 February 1966. Proclamation 43 (Martin Hall)

13 March 1993. The Library of Babel: Origins of the World Wide Web (Paul Graves-Brown)

14 0053 Hrs, 12 October 1998. The Murder of Matthew Wayne Shepard: An archaeologist’s personal defining moment (Thomas Dowson)

15 0000:00, 1 January 2000. ‘Three, two, one …?’: The material legacy of global millennium celebrations (Rodney Harrison)

16 n.d. Conservation and the British (Graham Fairclough)


John Beech (Applied Research Centre for Sustainable Regeneration, Coventry University)

Martin Brown (Archaeological Advisor, Defence Estates)

Paul Cornish (Senior Curator in the Department of Exhibits & Firearms at the Imperial War Museum)

Thomas A Dowson (independent archaeologist)

Graham Fairclough (Head of Characterisation, English Heritage)

Greg Fewer (Waterford Institute of Technology)

Paul Graves-Brown (independent archaeologist)

Martin Hall (Vice Chancellor, University of Salford)

Rodney Harrison (Lecturer in Heritage Studies, Open University)

Cornelius Holtorf (Linnaeus University)

David Miles (formerly Chief Archaeologist at English Heritage)

Professor Richard Morris (Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds)

Cassie Newland (PhD student in Archaeology, University of Bristol)

John Schofield (English Heritage)

Tilli Tansey (Professor of the History of Modern Medical Sciences, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London)

Series Editors’ Preface

Studies in Contemporary and Historical Archaeology is a new series of edited and single-authored volumes intended to make available current work on the archaeology of the recent and contemporary past. The series brings together contributions from academic historical archaeologists, professional archaeologists and practitioners from cognate disciplines who are engaged with archaeological material and practices. The series will include work from traditions of historical and contemporary archaeology, and material culture studies, from Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere around the world. It will promote innovative and creative approaches to later historical archaeology, showcasing this increasingly vibrant and global field through extended and theoretically engaged case studies.

Proposals are invited from emerging and established scholars interested in publishing in or editing for the series. Further details are available from the series editors: Email or

This, the fifth volume in the series, brings together a highly innovative series of contributions that explore the material, social and institutional legacies of ‘defining moments’ of the 20th century. The ‘headline’ significance of these events is varied: some were of global impact (e.g. the creation of television and the World Wide Web, and the discovery of insulin), others more personal (e.g. the murder of Matthew Wayne Shepard); but all are telling of how the conditions of modernity and post-modernity that shape the networks and contours of contemporary life were brought into being. Innovation here derives from a distinctly archaeological perspective that is taken on critical historical moments, one which solidly foregrounds the materiality (and, in instances such as that of transatlantic wireless, the immateriality) of events.

Dan Hicks and Josh Pollard August 2009

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