Jonathan Finch
Senior Lecturer



Jon is an historical archaeologist who specialises in landscape, poverty, slavery and commemoration. These key themes intersect and inform much of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries under the broad heading of globalisation. His latest fieldwork has taken him from Harewood House, near Leeds, to the plantations of Barbados and he is currently directing excavations at Breary Banks, near Masham, a First World War camp where the 'Leeds Pals' battalion was trained.  

He completed his AHRB funded PhD at the University of East Anglia in 1996. It was the first systematic study of historic commemorative practices that demonstrated the relationship between the forms and frequency of church monuments and social and economic factors. 

After a short period as a part-time lecturer at UEA, he spent a year as a lecturer at the University of Wales, Bangor before being appointed at the University of York in 1999. He is now a senior lecturer and Director of Studies for the MA in Historical Archaeology

Departmental roles

  • Chair of Departmental Research Committee
  • Member of Departmental Management Team
  • Director of Studies MA in Historical Archaeology

University roles

  • Member of University Research Committee
  • Member of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies 



My research clusters around three themes: the post-medieval rural landscape, the impact and legacy of slavery, and commemoration. The relationship between these themes is important, and is manifest in publications on the designed landscapes of both slave-owning families and abolitionists, for example.

Trained as an historian and landscape archaeologist understanding the cultural landscape of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries has been key to many of my research projects. At its heart is enquiry into the politics of landscape through its use and manipulation. The power of ownership is an important strand which was investigated in an editted volume Estate Landscapes and I have published on various aspects of the character, context and development of estates.

The global connections of many landowning families and the discourse of colonialism led me to explore the links and discontinuities between the metropole and the colonial landscape. This research took the form of both exploring the estates and designed landscapes of landowners who engaged with the trans-Atlantic slave trade and comparing these with those in the Caribbean. The award of a British Academy Small Grant enabled two seasons of fieldwork in Barbados resulting in publications on the first modern systematic fieldwork on one of the island's plantations, and on the construction of African identities within a plantation pot house, as opposed to the slave village, where archaeologists have traditional looked. 

The archaeology of the enslaved workers on plantations has developed into a wider interest in marginalised communities in rural landscapes, and is one which informs my current excavations at Breary Banks which was home to navvies, volunteer recruits for the First World War, and German prisoners of war in less than thirty years of occupation. 

The construction of identities and the use of social memory was an early research interest which grew from my first monograph An Archaeology of Commemoration and it is a theme I am still developing for a future publication. The role of commemorative material culture is one that can reveal much about contemporary social values. 


  • Gawthorpe Hall, Harewood.

The excavation of the manor house of Gawthorpe which was demolished in the early 1770s when the present Harewood House was completed. The project examines the cultural and economic gulf between Gawthorpe and Harewood, examining why the earleir building and its landscape was no longer 'fit for purpose' once the Lascelles family began to reap the profits of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and their plantations in the Caribbean.   

  • Mount Plantation, Barbados.

Fieldwalking and landscape survey carried out at one of the plantations held by the Lascelles family of Harewood House from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The project examines the plantation landscape in comparison with the agricultural landscapes owned by the same family in the UK, and explores the cultural connections between these two landscape types and the people who lived and worked within them.

Landscape survey and excavation of an early twentieth century camp constructed in the Yorkshire Dales to house the work force of navvies working on local reserviours, but which - on the outbreak of the Great War - was turned over to the military and became a training camp for the Leeds Pals battalion. Before reverting back to a navvy camp at the end of the war it also served as a PoW camp for German Officers. The project will examine each of the four phases, exploring how successive groups lived within and related to the wider landscape. 

I am a partner within the EUROTAST Marie Curie Initial Training Network, for which I supervise one PhD (Phulgence) and manage the second Experienced Researcher post (Morgan). The project is exploring the history, archaeology and new genetics of the trans-atlantic slave trade by supporting a new generation of science and humanities researchers to uncover and interpret new evidence on the history and contemporary legacies of the transatlantic slave trade. 

  • Archaeology of Commemoration

I am currently writing a monograph on the archaeology of commemoration across the medieval and post-medieval periods. It will explore the politics and social context of commemoration, exploring the agency of the monuments in the construction of social memories and identities. 


  • 2011-2013: European Commission (co-investigator with Collins, Gilbert, Schroeder et al): EUROTAST, Marie Curie ITN: A European Initial Training Network on the History, Archaeology and New Genetics of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, York funding c £600,000. Manager of Experienced Researcher Morgan
  • 2012-2015: AHRC CDA (Finch and Burton Constable Foundation): Colonial Horticulture, c. £50,000
  • 2012-2015: AHRC CDA (Finch, Ormrod and Leeds City Museums and Galleries): Medieval Gentry, c. £50,000
  • 2011-2012: British Academy (Finch): The Global Landscape: Harewood and the Caribbean in the 18th and 19th centuries, c £7,500
  • 2011-2014: AHRC CDA (Finch and Nidderdale ANOB) Shooting Landscapes, c. £50,000
  • 2010-2013: AHRC CDA (Finch and Harewood House Trust) Early Modern Landscape, c. £50,000
  • 2009: Distinguished Visitor funding (University of York) for visit by Professor Doug Armstrong
  • 2004: ‘The Estate Landscape: creating a digital landscape resource’. Innovation and Research Priming Fund, University of York, £5,468


  • Prof. Tom Gilbert, Copenhagen University (EUROTAST)
  • Dr Hannes Schroeder, Copenhagen University (EUROTAST)
  • Prof Douglas V Armstrong Syracuse University (Barbados)
  • Dr Edward Blinkhorn (Barbados and Gawthorpe)
  • Dr David Barker (Barbados and Gawthorpe)
  • Dr Jeremy Kemp (Gawthorpe and Breary Banks)
  • Dr Susan D White (Gawthorpe)
  • Dr Jane McCormish (Gawthorpe)
  • Becky Knight (Gawthorpe)
  • Prof. Tom Williamson, University of East Anglia (Brown)
  • Dr Jan Woudstra, University of Sheffield (Brown)
  • Dr Jonas Monie Nordin, National Historical Museum, Sweden (Globalisation)
  • Dr Krish Seetah, Stanford University (Globalisation)
  • Dr Magdalena Naum, Lund University (Globalisation)
  • Dr Adam White, Curator, Lotherton Hall (CDA)
  • Dr David Connell, Curator, Burton Constable Hall (CDA)
  • Paul Burgess, Nidderdale AONB Manager (CDA)

Available PhD research projects

I would welcome enquiries and applications for research degrees on any of the topics mentioned below:

  • designed landscapes, parks and gardens
  • estate landscapes
  • landscapes of leisure: hunting, shooting and fishing 
  • rural poverty
  • rurality
  • ecosystem services 
  • slavery and enslavement; abolition and freedom
  • colonialism - its impact and legacy
  • commemoration
  • eighteenth and nineteenth century life and society


Current Research Students

  • Christopher Bovis: The Gascoigne Family (AHRC CDA with Leeds Museums and Galleries)
  • Rebecca Goulding: Shooting Landscapes of Nidderdale (AHRC CDA with Nidderdale AONB) 
  • Suzanne Moss: Colonialism and Horticulture in the Eighteenth Century (AHRC CDA with the Burton Constable Foundation)
  • Winston Phulgence: Commemoration and the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade (EUROTAST Fellow)
  • Paul Belford: Early-Modern innovation and the landscapes of iron smelting 
  • Katherine Cook: Monumental Commemoration in Barbados and the UK
  • Jennifer Clarke: Pre-WW1 regimental commemoration and the representation of Empire
  • Matthew Adams: Montains and the Medieval mind

Previous Research Students

  • Aleksandra McClain: Cross Slab Commemoration in the North
  • Timur Tatlioglu: Harewood Estate Landscape (AHRC CDA with the Harewood House Trust)
  • Leslie Johansen: Eighteenth century designed landscapes
  • Christopher Gibson: Medieval Castles
  • Anne Heard: Knights Templar in Lincolnshire
  • Rachael Nowakovski: Commemoration in Lincolnshire
  • John Clay: The Construction of Landscape in the Letters of Boniface
  • Emily Rayner: Early Modern Landscapes of Gawthorpe Hall (AHRC CDA with the Harewood House Trust)




  • First Year Excavation Fieldschool
  • Prehistory to Present
  • Themes in Historical Archaeology
  • Assessed Seminar



External activities


  • Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, February 2006
  • Appointed Member of AHRC Peer Review College 2008
  • Member of the North York Moors Archaeology Group
  • Member of the European Association of Archaeologists (session organiser)

Invited talks and conferences

  • 2014: 'Hanover and England: a personal and garden union? The German-British garden culture between 1714 and today' Zentrum für Gartenkunst und Landschaftsarchitektur (CGL), Leibniz Universität Hannover (invited speaker) 
  • 2014: European Association of Archaeologists, Istanbul, Turkey, session organiser 
  • 2012: European Association of Archaeologists, Helsinki, Finland, session organiser
  • 2009: Society of Post-Medieval Archaeology, Odense, Denmark, (invited speaker)
  • 2009: European Association of Archaeologists, Riva del Garda, Italy, (international conference, c. 800 delegates)
  • 2009: Royal Geographical Society, University of Manchester, (invited speaker)
  • 2009: Society of Historical Archaeology, University of Toronto, (international conference, c. 1000 delegates)
  • 2007: University of East Anglia, “Estates and Landscapes in post-medieval England” (keynote speaker)
  • 2007: AHRC Landscape and Environment workshop series “Perceptions of Medieval Landscapes and Settlement” (invited speaker)
  • 2005: Ruralia VI International Conference on Medieval Settlement, Budapest (invited speaker)
Dr Jonathan Finch at Gawthorpe Dig

Contact details

Dr Jonathan Finch
Department of Archaeology
University of York
The King's Manor

Tel: (44) 1904 323971