Universities of Chester and Exeter receives €1.2 million to research medieval history of England and Wales

Historians and archaeologists from the University of Chester and the University of Exeter have received €1.2 million in funding for a new project that will explore the changing significance of memory in medieval and modern England and Wales.

The universities announced the grant from European Research Council (ERC) yesterday. It goes towards the project, titled ‘The Past in its Place: Histories of Memory in English and Welsh Locales’, which aims to delve into archaeological, historical and literary perspectives of memory by exploring churches, ancient monuments and distinctive local landscapes.

University of Chester’s Howard Williams will be the project’s archaeologist, joining a team of academics led by Professor Philip Schwyzer, an expert in Renaissance literature and Head of English at the University of Exeter.

Professor Williams says: “This five-year project will explore the ‘history of memory’ in a range of English and Welsh locales. We will investigate change and continuity in the ways individuals and communities have imagined, appropriated, and reinvented the past.

“The project is particularly exciting for being truly trans-disciplinary. In this work, archaeology will be used to reveal not only what people did in the past, but how they perceived their own histories and mythologies in buildings, monuments and the landscape.”

Chester’s share of the grant should fund research leave and the appointment of a three-year post-doctoral researcher.

In February, Professor Williams was awarded a £200,000 Leverhulme Trust research grant for another joint project with Philip Schwyzer, called ‘Speaking with the Dead: Histories of Memory in English Sacred Space’. That inter-disciplinary project investigated commemoration in five English cathedrals – including Chester – and included a fully-funded PhD studentship for the University of Chester.

Dr Keith McLay, Head of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester, said, “We are delighted that the Department has been so successful in winning these research grants. Awards from the British Academy are especially difficult to obtain and the ERC grant is a significant amount of money that will allow new research to take place.

“The Department of History and Archaeology has proved to be to the fore in attracting research funding; this success has surely contributed to the 400% increase in the number of postgraduate students studying within the Department since 2007.”

Professor Robert Warner, Dean of Humanities, added, “These impressive successes in research funding demonstrate that History and Archaeology at Chester have achieved national and international recognition as growing centres of research excellence.

“Our Faculty policy is that undergraduates are regularly taught by leading researchers who are also enthusiastically dedicated to their students. That’s why student satisfaction levels are so high, and there is growing demand for places on our programmes.”

Source: University of Chester

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