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Rethinking battlefield archaeology: campaign landscapes and liminal journeys in fourteenth century Northern England and Southern Scotland

Widell, B. (2021) Rethinking battlefield archaeology: campaign landscapes and liminal journeys in fourteenth century Northern England and Southern Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00105217


This thesis investigates medieval campaign landscapes by reconstructing the routes that soldiers used before battle, and then exploring how the soldiers perceived their journey by analysing the route from a phenomenological perspective. The thesis is built on the premise that the journey to battle was important to medieval soldiers in their liminal state, given previous research on medieval journeying and liminality, such as pilgrimage, which has demonstrated that the journey was an important spiritual preparation for the pilgrims. This study is thus a response to previous research on medieval battlefields, in the subdisciplines of battlefield archaeology and conflict archaeology, which often has failed to consider broader landscape contexts. In order to answer the research enquiry, a two-step methodology is developed which; 1) reconstructs the most likely route to battle by addressing interdisciplinary evidence and identifying route corridors in the landscape; and 2) explores the route and its landscape context from a medieval phenomenological perspective. The method is tested on three fourteenth century battlefields in England and Scotland that were part of the AngloScottish wars (c.1296-c.1550), listed on Historic England and Historic Environment Scotland’s Register and Inventory of historic battlefields. The results showed that the soldiers used both Roman roads, smaller paths and crossed the terrain, and passed places of spiritual, symbolic and folkloric meaning in the medieval imagination. It is argued that the journey was perceived by the soldiers as an interior and mental preparation for battle, which included engaging somatically with sites of spiritual, liminal, martial and chivalric values. The results also propose that regional and national differences shaped the soldiers’ experience, for instance in saints’ cults, the motivation of and conduct for war, and the regional sense of the area.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Gilchrist, R. and King, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:105217
Date on Title Page:November 2020


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