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Understanding & Interpreting Historic Buildings - ARC00011M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Matthew Jenkins
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

Britain has a wide array of surviving historic buildings that have long fascinated scholars and the public alike, including medieval castles and churches, country houses, workers’ housing, public buildings, factories and prisons. This module provides an introduction to this diversity and considers how we might understand and interpret these buildings today. How can buildings help to illuminate the past and what questions do we choose to ask of them? This can be crucial in evaluating their current significance and the stories that we tell about them in the present.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims:

  • To train students in the specialised skills required in the interpretation of the historical function and meaning of a range historic building types
  • To provide students with a critical understanding of the ways in which historic building types can be interpreted

Module learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate a practical understanding of how to analyse and phase the historical development of a range of historic building types
  • Engage critically with current academic debates about the form, function and meaning of a range of historic building types
  • Demonstrate critical engagement with interpretations of the archaeology of buildings and other areas of archaeological and historical knowledge
  • Communicate complex ideas in an analytical framework through essay writing

Module content

Buildings can provide insights into many different aspects of the past. Early scholarship often focused on constructing typologies of buildings, now we are often more concerned with exploring gender, class and race. Each week we will focus on a specific type of building, as well as some of the most interesting questions surrounding them. Are castles about defence or symbolism? How did changing church buildings help to structure religious practice? What are the connections between slavery and the British country house? How is power and control manifested in a factory, a prison or a museum? Are domestic buildings public or private and are they gendered space? In the assessment, you are free to focus on the types of buildings and themes that most interest you, with support from the module tutors.


Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative: oral feedback from module leaders

Summative: written feedback within the University's turnaround policy

Indicative reading

Goodall J (2011) The English Castle 1066-1650. New Haven, London: Yale University Press.

Giles K (2007) 'Seeing and believing: visuality and space in pre-modern England', World Archaeology 39(1): 105-121

Markus T A (1993) Buildings & Power: Freedom and Control in The Origin of Modern Building Types. London: Routledge.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.