The SHA Guide to Higher Education

Are you an undergraduate interested in historical archaeology and mulling the possibility of going to graduate school? Do you need some guidance on what options are out there for you? Do you have a specific thematic (forensic, African Diaspora, Atlantic World, etc.) or temporal focus that you would like to learn more about? Do you find it difficult to navigate the archipelago of departments and individual faculty that a simple web search inevitably yields? Well, the SHA is here to help, with our Guide to Higher Education!

The Guide is a listing of the academic departments around the globe that offer instruction in our discipline. There are entries for the University of Southern Denmark, the University of Vienna, Flinders University in Australia, and the University of Ulster. In North America, everything from Simon Frasier in Vancouver to the University of West Florida appear in the Guide. Being biased, I’d point you towards the entry for the College of William & Mary.

For each of these institutions (there are 71 listed), the Guide contains the institution’s name and the department which teaches historical archaeology (East Carolina University appears twice, once for Anthropology and once for Maritime Studies). Also included is an enumeration of the faculty at that institution (often including both historical archaeologists and prehistorians) along with their specialties, degrees, and position (lecturer, associate professor, professor emeritus, etc.). Affiliated staff members, who may be in other departments or state/federal agencies housed in the same city, appear in a separate subsection. Additionally, you get a general statement of the foci and strengths of the department as well as contact information for the department in case you want more information. It’s a great, centralized resource for the knowledge you need your search for the next step in your educational journey.

There is one caveat to be offered. The Guide was originally compiled by Dr. Alicia Valentino, and for many years was updated annually, which, when the list grew to its current length, became a massive undertaking for those tasked with maintaining it. It is now updated by individual academic departments who choose to send in updates*, so there is some potential for the information to be dated. Though the Guide is a great baseline of information, it is highly advisable that the Guide be used as an introduction to a department that should be checked against current departmental web pages to ensure the information is still current.

Best of luck with your search!

- Carl G. Drexler
The College of William & Mary

* Faculty who see that their department’s entry needs to be updated can send a note to

SHA 2013: The University of Leicester

The Engineering Building, Attenborough Tower, and Charles Wilson Building at the University of Leicester

In contrast to many of SHA’s previous conferences, much of the 2013 conference program, including the opening reception, public archaeology events, plenary and academic sessions, will take place outside the confines of a hotel, on the campus of the University of Leicester.

The Royal Charter that created the University of Leicester was granted in 1957, but the university inhabits a much older site. The university’s principal building was constructed in 1837 as the Leicestershire and Rutland Lunatic Asylum (which will be the subject of a separate blog post later in the year). The asylum was closed in 1907 and the building remained vacant until the outbreak of the First World War, when the building as put to use as the 5th Northern General Military Hospital, for the treatment of soldiers injured at the Western Front.

The Fielding Johnson Building, formerly the Leicestershire and Rutland Lunatic Asylum

After the war the building and grounds were purchased by Thomas Fielding Johnson (1828-1921), a local businessman and philanthropist, and presented to Leicester Council for the establishment of a University College, which would act as a living memorial  to those who lost their lives in the First World War. This is still reflected in the University’s motto Ut Vitam Habeant – ‘so that they may have life’.

In 1957 the University College became a University in its own right, and was able to award its own degrees, rather than the external degrees of the University of London. The establishment of the University can be seen in the context of the expansion of the provision of education in Britain after the Second World War; secondary (post-11) education was reformed, and government funding for colleges and universities was increased. Like most other British towns and cities, Leicester saw an increased demand for university education. The need for more teaching and research space on the campus saw something of a building spree, and some of the most prominent architects of the time were commissioned to design new facilities. Adrian Jones and Chris Matthews, blogging as ‘Jones the Planner‘, have written an assessment of the architecture of Leicester University here.

Charles Wilson Building

Sir Denys Lasdun was a leading figure among the ‘brutalist’ school of architects; his most famous work is the National Theatre in London. In 1961 he was commissioned to design an iconic building for the University of Leicester, initially conceived as a six-storey structure. Additional funding during construction led to the addition of a further four storeys before completion in 1966, resulting in the building’s unique shape.

Attenborough Tower and Seminar Block

Eighteen stories tall and perched on top of one of the few significant hills in the City of Leicester, the Attenborough Tower can be seen from miles away and the views from its top floor (currently used as offices for the School of Archaeology and Ancient History’s research students) are spectacular, extending far into the county. Originally planned as the first of three towers, the Attenborough was designed by Arup Associates and opened in 1970. It is named after Frederick Attenborough (1887-1973), Principal of the University College from 1931 to 1951, who lived on campus with his family, including his famous sons David and Richard. The Attenborough Tower contains one of the last working paternoster lifts in Britain (although delegates should note that the paternoster is not a toy!).

The Engineering Building

Designed in 1959 and constructed in 1963, the Department of Engineering is probably the most distinctive and famous building on campus and is Grade II* listed. It was designed by James Stirling (after whom the Stirling Prize for Architecture is named) and James Gowan as part of the ‘New Brutalist’ school of architecture. Since then, scores of articles and at least one book have been written about the Engineering Building and in 2008 the Daily Telegraph included it in a list of ‘the 50 most inspiring buildings in Britain’, calling Stirling and Gowan’s unique design “a declaration of war against the predominant culture of dour functionalism.”

[Image 1 CC BY-SA 3.0 Via Wikimedia Commons]

[Image 2 CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Via Flickr]