Accessibility statement

The Archaeology of British Christianity


Module leader: Aleksandra McClain


Christianity has been a driving force in the development of material culture, the built environment, landscapes, and social relationships in Britain from the Roman period to the modern day. The importance of Christianity to the formation of British society and culture cannot be underestimated--its precepts have a bearing on almost every important stage in human life, from birth to death.  And the parish churches, cathedrals, and monasteries built for worship occupied central places in almost every rural and urban settlement, and still often do. This module gives students the opportunity to explore the archaeology of the Christian religion in the British Isles through particular themes, materials, or time periods that interest them. Seminars and class discussion will encourage consideration of the role of archaeological method and theory in the study of Christian remains, and will address the role of interdisciplinarity in a field that is equally relevant to archaeology, history, art history, and sociology.


The ‘Archaeology of British Christianity’ module aims to give students an understanding of the material culture of Christianity in the British Isles from the Roman period to the 21st century, including parish churches, cathedrals, monasteries, funerary monuments, liturgical and devotional art and artefacts, and Christian landscapes. The seminars will also address wider questions about Christianity’s impact on society and how that has changed over time, including the exercise of religious and lay authority, the definition of secular and sacred space, the development and display of personal and group religious identities, and the role of Christian belief in structuring perception and action in life and death.

In addition, the seminars will enable students to explore the relevance of the archaeology of religion to methodological and theoretical debates in the discipline, including the relationships between material and documentary evidence, medieval and post-medieval archaeology, local communities and public heritage, and archaeology and conservation. The seminars will also focus on inter- and multidisciplinary approaches, allowing students to explore the relative values of archaeological, architectural, art historical, and historical study of the same subject area.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate that they are familiar with the literature on the archaeology of British Christianity
  • Exhibit a firm understanding of the theoretical, ethical and methodological issues related to the archaeological study of British Christianity
  • Show familiarity with a wide range of case studies
  • Demonstrate in depth knowledge of a topic of their choosing
  • Pick out the key issues in their chosen topic
  • Prepare a worksheet which sets out key reading and issues for presentation, debate and discussion, and support the group in the preparation of the seminar
  • Chair a seminar, engage interest in the topic, stimulate debate and structure discussion
  • Have a critical awareness of the process of collective debate on a specific topic
  • Be able to judge the general 'success' of the seminar, and to be able to reflect on this, through a written summary of a seminar
  • Present PowerPoint presentations on other subjects within the general theme and contribute informed ideas and information to the other seminars


In this module you will develop key skills in presentation and chairing which should be of immense value in your future careers:
  • Self management: in this module you need to develop the ability to take initiative and you will need the will to succeed! There will be a lot of self management required whilst you plan your topic through the spring term- you should be spending about 3-4 days a week on this module and balancing this with finalising your dissertation (and any other commitments)
  • Communication: communication skills are vital and they will be assessed- through the previous 2 years you will should have practised and developed these skills in order to present clear and succinct PowerPoints. Your writing skills will be tested further in your self assessment document. Most importantly, you will have the chance to chair a seminar and you will need to be able to judge when to listen to your team mates, and how to encourage and stimulate debate, particularly from quieter members of the group
  • Team working: it is essential you can bring the team together to tackle your topic in depth and to create a stimulating and enlightening debate. It may be a wise move to set up your own study groups.
  • Problem solving: you will be faced with a lot of reading and it is essential that you develop the skills for retrieving information from relevant sources as well as critical evaluation
  • Creativity and innovation: this module enables you to be creative in your ideas of what topic to develop and how you plan to run the seminar
  • World of work awareness: this module will set you up for similar situations in the world of work where you might need to chair a meeting and will have to keep the team to the point and to time- you should understand the pressures of such meetings and think about ways of coping with them
  • Social, cultural and global awareness: many of you will be considering the international dimensions of your chosen subject, and in many cases you might want to think about the diversity of issues from other cultures and countries, as well as ethical issues related to your research
  • Application of IT: you will be tested on your effective use of PowerPoint as well as word processsing skills. You will also be expected to use the internet effectively with your research
3-D render of a 15th century parish church