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Documents & Archives for Archaeologists - ARC00107M

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  • Department: Archaeology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Dav Smith
  • Credit value: 10 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23
    • See module specification for other years: 2021-22

Module summary

This module introduces students to the wealth of archival material available to help inform our understanding of historic buildings and landscapes. Working with local archives, a range of documentary, pictorial, and cartographic sources are explored, from medieval church records to estate maps and antiquarian writings. The production, use, analysis and interpretation of these resources is considered. The module includes an introduction to post-medieval palaeography (reading historic handwriting).

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2022-23

Module aims

  • To introduce students to the principles of archival research for archaeology.

  • To provide training in the use, organisation and deployment of archival sources.

  • To provide practical training in the use, analysis, and interpretation of a range of archival sources commonly used by archaeologists and heritage managers.

  • To provide practical training in basic post-medieval paleography

Module learning outcomes

Upon completion of this module students should:

  • Understand how archives are created and curated.

  • Be able to source, correctly handle, and apply basic palaeography skills to a range of archival sources.

  • Be able to analyse and interrogate archival sources in response to a research question.

Module content

Sessions are taught in conjunction with local archives, and utilise their collections of historic documents, pictures and maps. The module initially considers the skills required to effectively utilise archival sources, from how to locate records, to how to read and transcribe their contents (palaeography).

The module is structured around three key groups of resources and is focused on considering their purpose, content, and analysis and interpretation. Sessions on Ecclesiastical Records explore the huge range of archival material produced and collected by Church authorities across the medieval and post medieval periods, both those related to churches themselves, and the wider landscapes and buildings they controlled. The module then turns its attention to Domestic and Urban records, exploring the records of everyday life in a city like York. The module concludes by looking at Estate and Landscape records, examining records as diverse as slave registers and enclosure maps.


Task Length % of module mark
2500 word logbook
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Closed/in-person Exam (Centrally scheduled)
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback within 20 working days

Indicative reading

Barson, S (ed.) (2018) Understanding Architectural Drawings and Historical Visual Sources. London: Historic England.

Hoskins et al (2001) Reading the Past: Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century English Handwriting. York: University of York.

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.