Skip to main content

The Past in its Place

Where is the past? Can memory be located on a map? Such questions may seem rhetorical – variations on the timeworn theme of ubi sunt – yet for centuries people in England and Wales have both sought and found the past in specific locales. They have touched it in the lady chapel and the nave. They have found it under the turnip field, where the plough turns up silver pennies. They have located it under the old oak, and in ‘the pit where the martyrs died’. In such places, memories lie layer upon layer, signalled in the traces and imprints left on landscapes, places and the very ground on which we tread.

This five-year ERC project explores the ‘history of memory’ in a range of English and Welsh locales from the early medieval period down to the modern era. Focusing on three types of place – Cathedral Tombs and Memorials, Ancient Habitations, and Local Landscapes – we investigate change and continuity in the ways individuals and communities have imagined, appropriated, and reinvented the past. Drawing on the disciplinary perspectives of literary studies, history, cultural geography and archaeology, the project identifies and interprets the manifold ‘technologies of remembrance’ – including texts, oral traditions, material objects, landscapes and customary practices – whereby individuals and groups have depicted, ratified, or contested relationships between the past and the present. PASTPLACE transcends the boundaries of periodization and discipline to examine patterns of remembrance, re-imagining and forgetting over the longue durée.

Project Team includes: Philip Schwyzer (PI English, Exeter), Naomi Howell (English, Exeter) Nicola Whyte (History, Exeter), David Harvey (Geography, Aarhus), Ruth Nugent (Archaeology, Liverpool), Sarah Hamilton (History, Exeter), Joanne Parker (English, Exeter).

Find out more: