Salon Archive

Issue: 209

Forthcoming meetings

19 March 2009: ‘Medievalism and the Grand Tour’, by Rosemary Sweet, FSA

Both the Georgians and the Victorians were fascinated by Italy, but they saw the country with very different eyes. Eighteenth-century travellers sought out the monuments of classical antiquity; their nineteenth-century counterparts, by contrast, were increasingly drawn to the art and architecture of the Middle Ages and the ‘primitives’ of the early Renaissance. This lecture draws on contemporary antiquarian and topographical literature alongside unpublished correspondence and diaries to examine how the classically oriented Grand Tour evolved into the picturesque tour of the nineteenth century, with a particular emphasis on changing perceptions of Gothic architecture in Italy.

25 March 2009: ‘Did Hadrian Design Hadrian’s Wall?’, by David Breeze, FSA, to be held jointly with the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, at 6pm at The Mining Institute, Neville Hall, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 1SE, followed by a reception in the Library of the Mining Institute.

2 April 2009: Ballot with exhibits: our former Librarian, Bernard Nurse, FSA, will talk about ‘Richard Tongue (1795—1873), painter of prehistoric monuments’.

You can now vote in the 2 April ballot on the Fellows’ side of the website; apply to Christopher Catling if you would like a password or a password reminder.

23 April 2009:Council Elections and Anniversary Meeting

30 April 2009: ‘Getting to Know the Society’ tour. This will include an introduction to Burlington House by David Gaimster, followed by a tour of the Society’s library and the services it offers Fellows, by Heather Rowland, Head of Library and Collections, a tour of the Society’s pictures and museum collections by Julia Dudkeiwizc, the Collections Manager, and a small display of items from the Library, by Adrian James, Assistant Librarian. The tour starts at 11am (coffee from 10.30am) and ends at 12.30pm, followed, for those who wish it, by a light sandwich lunch, for which a charge of £5 will be made. Numbers are limited to 25 Fellows per tour. Contact admin@sal.org.uk to book a place.

The birth of prehistory: commemorating John Evans’s Somme gravels lecture given to the Society on 2 June 1859

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species dominates the headlines and TV schedules, but 1859 is a pivotal year in the history of science for another reason, and one in which archaeologists and geologists played a central role: on 2 June in that year, Sir John Evans (1823—1908) gave a lecture to the Society of Antiquaries that presented evidence for a more remote human antiquity than had hitherto been imagined, following his visit to Picardy with his friend, the geologist Joseph Prestwich, to testify to the existence of stone tools and the bones of extinct mammals in the same geological strata.

The Society’s commemoration of that lecture on 2 June 2009 will include short papers from seven speakers, led by Martin Rudwick, FBA, the celebrated science historian, who will speak on ‘The background to the problem of the antiquity of man’, and by our Vice-President, Clive Gamble, who will set Evans and Prestwich and the discoveries of 1859 in context. Clive has also tracked down the artefact that Evans and Prestwich photographed in-situ in 1859 and recovered from the Somme gravels; this will be on display again at the Society for the first time in 150 years, thanks to the Natural History Museum in whose archive it was re-discovered in 2008. The Hoxne handaxes found in 1797, which Evans also rescued from forgotten obscurity, will also be on view.

Places at the event cost £20, and include tea and a wine reception. If you would like to reserve a place, please contact the Society (admin@sal.org.uk).

Holiday closure

Burlington House and the Library will be closed on from Friday 10 April to Tuesday 14 April 2009 inclusive (re-opening on Wednesday 15 April) and Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 May 2009.

Where are they now?

Post sent by the Society has recently been returned from Fellows Peter Hill, until recently living on the Isle of Whithorn, Charles Walker, of Swanage, and Michael Ilett of the University of Nantes. Giselle Pullen, the Society’s Accounts Assistant, would be grateful for up-to-date contact details.

Ballot results: 5 March 2009

As a result of the ballot held on 5 March 2009, we are pleased to welcome the following as new Fellows of the Society.

Jacqueline Isabel Mckinley Senior Project Officer, Wessex Archaeology (osteoarchaeologist; specialist in cremations from prehistoric to eighteenth-century sites).
Christopher Foley BA Writer (researcher on antiquarian and musical topics; has published extensively on biographical aspects of British artists).
R Nicholas E Barton BA DPhil Professor of Palaeolithic Archaeology, Director of the Institute of Archaeology, University of Oxford (has directed archaeological projects on the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic).
Howard Brooks BA MA Archaeologist (has directed excavations for Essex County Archaeology and Colchester Archaeological Trust).
Kathryn Alexandra Lowe BA PhD Senior Lecturer in English Language, Department of English Language, University of Glasgow (research interests include Anglo-Saxon and post-Conquest charters, wills and seventeenth- and eighteenth-century antiquarianism).
Michael Quirin Mackensen MA DrPhil Professor of the Archaeology of the Roman Provinces, University of Munich (expert on African Red Slip pottery).
Kevin C MacDonald BA PhD Reader in African Archaeology, UCL Institute of Archaeology (has contributed to the study of African societies, the African diaspora and pottery analysis).
Nicholas William Mervyn Pickwoad BA DPhil Professor of the History of Bookbinding, University of the Arts (adviser to the National Trust and the monastery of St Catherine, Mount Sinai).
Nicholas Andrew Hill BA BSc Historic Buildings Surveyor, English Heritage (has led repair and conservation projects at Hill Hall, Bolsover Castle and Apethorpe Hall and published on architectural history and buildings archaeology).
Leslie Smith Church Archaeologist (specialist in church fittings; has published extensively on monumental brasses, stained glass and misericords; Kent Secretary of the Monumental Brass Society).
Edward Richard Pearce Edgcumbe MA DPhil Senior Curator, Metalwork Department, Victoria and Albert Museum (authority on English silver and jewellery; his publications include The Art of the Gold Chaser in Eighteenth-century London).
Geoffrey Brian Bailey Keeper of Archaeology and Local History, Falkirk Museum, Scotland (expert on the Antonine Wall and the historic landscapes of Falkirk).
Hazel Riley BA Archaeological Investigator, English Heritage (expert in the analysis and recording of upland landscapes; has published on the Quantock Hills and the field archaeology of Exmoor).
Jennifer M Webb BA PhD Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology, La Trobe University, Melbourne (President of the Classical Association of Victoria; Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities).
Paul S C Taçon BA PhD Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology, School of Humanities, Griffith University, Queensland (authority in the field of rock art research; has published on prehistoric art, body art and material culture).
Timothy Paul Denham BA MSc PhD Research Fellow, School of Geography and Environmental Science, Monash University, Australia (archaeologist; specialist on the early agriculture of New Guinea).
Patricia Rosalind Andrew BA PhD Heritage Consultant (has extensive experience in gallery curatorship and management; has published on eighteenth-century art history).
Nicholas James Humberstone MA Independent Scholar (external tutor on the Conservation of the Historic Environment, College of Estate Management, Reading; formerly a chartered surveyor and chartered town planner).
Emma Catherine Plunkett Dillon BA PhD Territory Archaeologist West and Historic Properties Adviser, The National Trust, Wales (former policy officer and chair of CBA Wales; member of the Welsh Assembly Government Historic Environment Group).
Joanna Cannon BA PhD Reader, Courtauld Institute of Art (authority on the art and architecture of Italy in the thirteen and fourteenth centuries; has published on art and the orders of friars in central Italy).
Christina Riggs BA MA DPhil Lecturer, School of World Art Studies and Museology, University of East Anglia (former curator of Egyptology, Manchester Museum).
Stephen Hodkinson BA PhD Professor of Ancient History, Department of Classics, University of Nottingham (has contributed to the study of classical Greece and ancient Sparta).
Stephen Bann BA MA PhD Professor of Art History, History of Art Department, University of Bristol (distinguished art historian, author of The True Vine, a leading authority on John Bargrave and his cabinet of curiosities at Canterbury Cathedral and on Ian Hamilton Finlay).
Michael McCormick PhD Goelet Professor of Medieval History, Department of History, Harvard University (expert on the archaeology and history of the fall of the Roman Empire and the origins of medieval civilisation).
Caroline Stanford MA MA MSc Historian to the Landmark Trust (has lectured widely and published on historic conservation).

Collapse of Cologne archive

Though it has not been widely reported in the UK press, Fellows who read German newspapers have alerted Salon to a major disaster in the city of Cologne, where the building that houses the largest urban archive north of the Alps, the Cologne Historical City Archive, collapsed on Tuesday 3 March 2009. Staff and visitors who were in the 1970s building at the time were able to escape when the building began to shake and make unusual sounds; even so, two bodies have now been found in the ruins of the building, whose destruction is being blamed on tunnelling work to construct a new underground train system.

Local historians and academics estimate that the damage to the archives will exceed that caused by the fire at the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar of 2 September 2004, when 50,000 volumes were destroyed and another 62,000 were damaged by the water used to extinguish the fire. The Cologne archive contains historical, archaeological and architectural records, as well as half a million photographs chronicling life in the city over the last 150 years.

Appeal for volunteers from the Director of the Cologne archives

Dr Ulrich S Soénius, Director of the Stiftung Rheinisch-Westfälisches and the Wirtschaftsarchiv zu Köln, has sent out the following circular letter explaining the disaster recovery plan set in place by the organisation, and appealing for specialist volunteers.

‘Interest in the fate of the Historical Archive in Cologne continues to grow. Much help has been offered — hence this report and further information on co-ordinating aid. Today [March 8] an archive crisis-team has been assembled consisting of representatives of the city, the historical archive, the professional fire-fighters of Cologne, the state archive of North Rhine-Westphalia and restoration experts, which will advise and make decisions on further steps of the recovery process.

‘On Wednesday, a large portion of the rubble-heap will be projected from the rain that set in a couple hours later, by being covered by tarpaulins. Delays occurred while a roof was constructed over the rubble; these had to do with the uncertain stability of the school opposite. Only once that stability had been assured could the construction of the roof be undertaken. As of today, one third of the rubble heap has been stabilized by the roof; the remaining portions of the roof are being prepared and will be erected in the course of the next couple of days.

‘What has been saved, and how? First, from the areas of the site that had to be cleared in order to allow for the construction of the roof and to search for missing persons, fire-fighters excavated the archival materials by hand — very carefully and according to established techniques. These materials are undergoing a preliminary examination and then being packed up by archivists, restorers, museum workers, and other specialists on site before being readied for transport to the warehouse and/or packed for freezing.

‘The condition is highly variable. Some of the materials have been damaged considerably, but there are some files and even boxes of files that have been completely preserved, and that could, in theory, be used again right away. Wet materials have been set aside away from the accident site, in a covered hall. All of the building debris that is being hauled away in trucks is also going to be examined and sorted. At the moment we are negotiating with the city administration for the use over the long term of a building that is safe, climate-controlled and technically appropriate for the conservation work that the archival materials need.

‘On site, in addition to fire-fighters, rescue workers and other emergency specialists, there is a team of 50 people in action, working around the clock in three shifts seven days a week. The helpers include many colleagues from Cologne archives and from other places as well. In the next few days, the Archive School in Marburg will send more than 50 students, teachers and other staff. The Fachhochschule in Potsdam has also offered help, which will be arriving soon. Colleagues throughout the state and country are also giving tremendous support.

‘Nonetheless, help is still needed, now and in the coming weeks — especially from archive and conservation specialists. Offers of help are coming in from all over the world. In order to ensure a better co-ordination, we would like to channel the aid as follows:

‘1) Offers for shelving and storage units: please contact the LVR-Archivberaturngs- und Fortbildungszentrum, attn Herrn Dr Arie Nabrings. There the donated units will be pre-sorted and transferred to the Historical Archive.

‘2) Offers of personnel (archivists): please contact me first (ulrich.soenius@koeln.ihk.de), as the representative of the Association of German Archivists (VdA) on site. To facilitate all our work, please also be sure to contact this address — rwwa@koeln.ihk.de — with information about your position or that of your group. We need the following information: first and last names, current position, address, telephone number, email address and duration of your availability. Please understand that any archivist who needs a place to stay overnight (we’ll help with this) should count on spending at least three days here; otherwise the administrative costs are prohibitively high. In particular the large archive administrations are asked to [vet or oversee] an assembly of specialized workers.

‘3) Offers of personnel (restorers): Please contact Bert Jacek with the same information as detailed above.

‘If you have already offered help, there is no need to contact us again. At the moment, the priority is for personnel to join the teams involved in the systematic and co-ordinated recovery of items from the rubble. Once this work has been completed, we will move to working through the salvaged materials.

‘The Historical Archive of Cologne, as an institution, did not collapse on 3 March 2009. We will all work to ensure that it receives a secure and adequate new building, in which the previous holdings as well as new ones can be used. The memory of Cologne, the Rhineland and the nation will have a future.’

The true story of the ‘Stanley Child Monument’

The latest issue (No 22) of Fellowship News features the opening of the Society’s Making History exhibition in Stoke-on-Trent, along with an account of the so-called ‘Stanley Child Monument’, an engraving of which forms part of the exhibition. Several Fellows have since pointed out that Fellowship News (and the exhibition catalogue) only tell a small part of the story of this intriguing monument, which is to be found in St Peter’s Church, Elford, near Tamworth in Staffordshire. The monument has been much studied by specialists in church monuments (including our own Fellow Dr Sophie Oosterwijk, who has published two papers on the monument, in Harlaxton Medieval Studies Volume 9 (2003) and in the Church Monuments Society Newsletter 22:2 (2006/7), because of the way that the monument has attracted so many sentimental myths — including the one retold in Fellowship News and in the exhibition catalogue, concerning the tragic death of the child depicted on the monument, holding the wooden tennis ball that is supposed to have killed him.

That legend can be traced back to the sixteenth century, when the victim is named as John Stanley, reputedly killed by a ball in about 1460. That the ball was a tennis ball was an addition to the legend made by Edward Richardson who, in 1848, ‘restored’ the Elford monuments and made the drawing of the monument that features in the Society’s exhibition. The Society itself now seems to have contributed further to the myth by describing the ball as wooden (our Fellow Dr Jean Wilson, whose paper in the Antiquaries Journal Vol 87 on the tennis imagery in the epitaph to Gervase Scrope (died 1705) says that tennis balls were traditionally of stuffed leather).

The catalogue entry also assigns a date of 1360 to the monument. The date of the monument has proved troubling to antiquaries since the sixteenth century, but if it does date from 1360, the effigy could not be of a Stanley child, and that family’s ‘last male heir’, since the Stanley family did not acquire Elford until 1408. Even Richardson evidently had doubts about the date of the monument for, although he says that the ‘date of this interesting memorial is supposed to be about 1460’, he also remarks that the child’s clothes are ‘similar to the first and second Edwardian period’. Other authorities, including Dr Oosterwijk, believe that it is thirteenth-century in style, as the tapered effigy slab and the treatment of the drapery of the garment suggest.

The finger of blame for modifying the carving of what was probably originally a heart or a fruit (by comparison with similar effigies) in the hand of the figure on the monument to make it more like the ball of the popular points towards Richardson, whose unreliability as a restorer is touched on in Pevsner’s taffordshire and who, according to Rupert Gunnis, was described by Augustus Hare as ‘a charlatan’. Even so, it need not have been Richardson who altered a damaged but original thirteenth-century sculpture. The effigy was certainly tampered with between the visits of Sampson Erdeswicke (c 1600) and Thomas Pennant (in 1781). The former describes it as ‘holding a ball to his ear’; the latter says that ‘one hand points to his ear; the other holds a ball’ — the form of the monument recorded in the depictions of Stebbing Shaw (1798) and Richardson.

It is not even clear that the monument shows a child. Dr Oosterwijk concludes that the original sculpture is a typical example of a late thirteenth-century miniature effigy of the type that was occasionally commissioned to commemorate a heart (or, more unusually, an entrail) burial.

The traditional story is, in short, unsustainable by scholarship: the carving of the monument itself is of doubtful authenticity, the date, the person commemorated (whose existence is posited solely on the basis of the monument) and even the idea that it is a monument to a child are all either demonstrably untrue or unprovable — but that simply serves to make the true story of the monument all the more interesting and worth telling as part of the solid tradition of the Society in ‘unravelling history from the morass of legend and myth’.

To make Paris more beautiful, leave her historic buildings alone!

The papers have been full this week of stories about President Sarkozy’s invitation to ten world-renowned architects to present proposals for enhancing the city. Specifically, the French President wants to stitch together the two parts of the city: the charming city centre of 2 million people, with its rivers, parks and historic buildings, and the suburban sprawl that lies beyond the peripherique, where the other 75 per cent of Parisians live in shabby and degraded post-war housing estates and high rises. The debate is, of course, not entirely about architecture, but about the social and psychological disparities between the two parts of the city, and it remains to be seen whether town planning can resolve those problems.

Meanwhile in the city centre itself, a battle is under way between the Mayor of Paris and the Culture Minister over the fate of the Hotel Lambert on the Ile Saint-Louis. The Mayor, along with the members of the Association pour la Sauvegarde et Mise en Valeur du Paris Historique, are united in opposition to plans for a ‘radical transformation’ of what is described as a ‘bravura piece of seventeenth-century Parisian domestic architecture on the point of the Ile Saint Louis, designed by Le Vau and decorated by Le Brun’. Remarkably the mansion has survived successive changes to its layout with the authenticity of its structure largely intact. However, plans have now been unveiled to convert the building into ‘modern luxury apartments’, and to transform its exterior into ‘an imaginary, idealised version of the original’. The re-ordering of the interior involves major demolition and the insertion of large shafts to accommodate lifts, pipe work and air-conditioning and elevators. Original cellars and floors are to be removed, and the hanging garden will be turned into a garage, with a new entrance piercing the garden wall that fronts on to the River Seine.

Members of the Association (whose website is at http://lambert.over-blog.org/) are seeking international support for a petition respectfully urging the Minister of Culture (who is said to favour the plan) to intervene in a project which, in its present form, flies in the face of best practice in the field of restoration.

Wiping Picardy off the map

Another cause of French discomfort at the moment is President Sarkozy’s plan to redraw the map of France in such a way as to rationalise the various tiers of government that prevail in the country, many of them based on medieval kingdoms and dukedoms that pre-date the country’s unification. At present France is subdivided into 22 regions, with 100 départements and 36,783 communes. The President’s proposals would reduce that tally to 15 regions and 75 départements that would, according to the team that has drawn up the plan, result in economically strong and balanced regions.

Anybody who has read the best-selling detective novels of Fred Vargas (the pseudonym of French historian and archaeologist Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau) will know just what regional rivalries exist between say Basse- and Haute-Normandy, and just how unlikely it is that the reunification of these regions for the first time since King John lost Normandy in 1204 is likely to lead to fraternal harmony.

But even forced marriage is better than being wiped off the map, and that is why the strongest protest to the plan has come from Picardy, the only one of the 22 existing regions whose name would be lost under the new scheme, Whereas other regions would merge with a neighbour, to create a new region that combines the names of the old (Provence—Alpes—Cote d’Azur, for example), Picardy would be divided into three parts: the northern third would become part of Nord—Pas-de-Calais, the southern third would join the Ile-de-France and the eastern third would become part of Champagnes—Ardennes.

Picardy, which holds a very special place in archaeological history (see above: ‘The birth of prehistory: commemorating John Evans’s Somme gravels lecture given to the Society on 2 June 1859’) is no mere ‘administrative region’ of France: it was an independent nation, has its own language (Picard), a distinctive red-brick architecture, has one of France’s most characterful cities (Amiens) as its capital, was the birthplace of Calvin, Charlemagne, Jules Verne, Dumas and Racine, and kept France supplied with sugar for its pâtisserie during the Napoleonic Wars by growing sugar beet after the English seized the French Caribbean. A spontaneous campaign has sprung up in defence of the existing regional boundary: 3 per cent (63,000) of the region’s 2m population has already signed an online petition — ‘Touche pas a ma Picardie!’ — and the number is growing by the day.

Some of our pictures are missing

Somewhat smugly, Salon reported in the last issue that French bureaucrats had mislaid 37,658 paintings, sculptures and other works of art belonging to the state, tacitly implying that we do things better this side of the Channel: a hubristic sentiment as it turns out, for the very day that Salon 208 was distributed, the Independent published an article saying that the UK Department of Culture was unable to account for the whereabouts of state-owned paintings lost, stolen or damaged while on loan to ministers, ambassadors and civil servants at home and abroad. Some nineteen works from the Government Art Collection have been reported lost or stolen since 2005 (four of these, including Strand on the Green by Rodney Burns, were later found). Twelve more were damaged and had to be repaired at a significant cost, including a portrait of Sir Robert Walpole loaned to 10 Downing Street, which required repairs to ‘tears in the canvas’ costing £5,000.

Opposition politicians accuse the Government of being ‘too casual’ with the 13,500 works in the Government Art Collection, and called for stiffer discipline to force staff to take more care with the valuable items entrusted to them.

It seems, however, that lending works to ministers and diplomats is less risky than giving them to a museum: the Sunday Telegraph this week that national museums have lost 198 items since 2000. The Royal Armouries has lost 143 items since 2000, including armour, antique rifles, pistols and muskets. The Science Museum has lost 42 items, including a collection of fourteen historic microscopes, stolen from their display cabinets in July 2005. A clairvoyance crystal which once belonged to John Dee, the personal astrologer and astronomer to Queen Elizabeth I, also went missing from the Science Museum in 2004 but has since been recovered by police.

Jeremy Hunt, the shadow culture secretary, said: ‘These figures show that sadly it isn’t just the Government Art Collection that needs to improve its management of our national collections. Losing items on this scale undermines our reputation as one of the best countries in the world at preserving, restoring and looking after fine art’, but Roy Clare, Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), said: ‘Millions of people visited leading museums and galleries in the past few years. In relation, the level of loss is low.’

Why are museums so popular at the moment?

Salon 208 reported on the rising popularity of some of the UK’s national and regional museums, and columnist Hugo Rifkind seeks to explain this phenomenon in an article in The Times based on theories that he attributes to several Fellows of our Society. Theory No 1 comes from Fellow Giles Waterfield, whose book on museum history (Palaces of Art) argues for the German Romantic idea of the museum as a temple, in which the visitor ‘should enjoy a quasi-mystical experience’. Rifkind rejects the idea that people are seeking this kind of experience in 2009 on the grounds that museums are no longer like that: in fact, quite suddenly, museums aren’t much like museums at all. He then asks whether museums have attracted more visitors (especially families) by asking whether they have ‘dumbed down’, and decides that, on the contrary, in the words of Fellow Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, that museum numbers are up because people are getting cleverer. ‘There is a huge desire,’ MacGregor says, ‘to understand and to address complexity, and to spend the time that it takes to do so.’

Theory No 3 is that museums are popular because they are safe and polite places: ‘they attract only a certain type of person; you do not hear the F-word in a museum, but you hear it up and down every high street. Neil MacGregor agrees that there is something about museums that people respect: ‘The Great Court has become London’s village green,’ he says. ‘It’s where you bring the children. It’s where you meet a friend. It’s the space that belongs to everyone.’

Theory 4 is the ‘credit-crunch theory’: people are going to museums because museums are free. But most of Britain’s biggest museums have been free for years, and the BM has never charged for entry. What is more, it is not just the free displays that are attracting visitors: special exhibitions have never been more popular.

Rifkind finally plumps for theory No 5: museums are as much about activities, these days, as collections: films or debates at the British Museum, jazz at the Royal Academy, playgrounds at the Museum of Childhood, nightlife, cafés, restaurants, places for singles to meet. They are also the best public spaces we have. ‘Britain is too secular to value its churches and too divorced from local governance to give a damn about town halls. Schools are not the social hubs they once were. Museums fill a gap. What is more, museums no longer feel like somebody else’s country house. They feel like they are ours.’

Iron-Age mirror and medieval manuscript export bans

A Late Iron Age mirror and two brooches have been made the subject of a temporary export ban in a bid to keep the items in the UK. All three were dug up by a metal detectorist from a cremation grave at Chilham Castle, Kent, in 1993. Our Fellow Catherine Johns, a member of the committee that advises the Government on heritage exports, said the mirror is the earliest example of only seventeen complete decorated Iron Age mirrors found in Britain, and is all the more important for our understanding of the sophisticated art and complex society of Late Iron Age Britain because it comes from a known context which was subsequently investigated by archaeologists using modern excavation techniques.

The ban is in force until 1 May 2009, and could be extended until 1 August if a UK buyer needs the time to raise the £35,000 recommended price.

Also subject to a temporary export bar is the medieval manuscript known as ‘The Courtenay Compendium’, a late fourteenth-century English manuscript containing several texts, including Gildas’s ‘Ruin and Conquest of Britain’, the ‘Encomium of Queen Emma’, the ‘Travels of Marco Polo’ and a collection of visions and prophesies. Perhaps assembled by a monk in the Augustinian priory at Breamore, in Hampshire, the Compendium’s contents were possibly copied from sources in the library of Glastonbury Abbey, then the chief medieval library in the south west of England. The most significant text in the Compendium is a revised version of the ‘Encomium of Queen Emma’, an anonymous biography commissioned by the subject herself — Emma of Normandy — to promote the political interests of her offspring, Harthacnut and Edward the Confessor.

Our Fellow Christopher Wright, Reviewing Committee member, said: ‘The Courtenay Compendium, which has hitherto been unknown to scholars of Anglo-Saxon history, is a rare and remarkable discovery. It is a major source for the study both of pre-Conquest English history, and of medieval England’s perceptions of the wider non-Christian world.’

Export of the Compendium will be deferred until 3 May 2009, after which it may be extended until 3 August inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the manuscript at the recommended price of £937,250 is expressed.

The politically correct Vikings

The Vikings are this week being held up as models of multi-cultural integration, according to advance publicity for a conference being held at Cambridge to re-evaluate the Viking contribution to European culture.

Shining a spotlight on what our Fellow Maev Kennedy, in her Guardian report, called ‘the cuddly side of the Vikings’ is the idea of conference organiser Maire Ni Mhaonaigh who concedes that the Vikings were responsible for some ‘extremely destructive raids’, but that ‘over the four centuries covered by our conference they became completely integrated [into Irish society], even identifying themselves as the Gall-Gael, the Irish Scandinavians’. In Britain, too, the conference will be told that the Viking warriors who raided monasteries and settlements in England and Scotland at the end of the eighth century AD were living in harmony with their Anglo-Saxon and British counterparts by the end of the ninth century, swapping technology and enriching their culture.

Professor Judith Jesch, from the University of Nottingham, will reveal, for example, how Old Norse literary works borrowed tales from Gaelic storytelling, so that the myths of Scandinavia, Ireland and Britain became inexorably intertwined. Professor Terje Spurkland, from the University of Oslo, will discuss rune stones that combine Scandinavian inscriptions with Celtic designs. The image of the Viking as marauding invader can be traced to the work of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Irish chroniclers who sought to extol the virtues of their ancestors by emphasising their bravery in fending off the brutal Vikings.

In fact, says Dr Fiona Edmonds, of Cambridge University’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies, which is hosting the conference, ‘the various cultures in Britain and Ireland started to intermingle within a relatively short space of time, and with lasting effect. Investigating that process provides us with a historical model of how political groups can be absorbed into complex societies, contributing much to those societies in the process. There are important lessons that can be gained from this about cultural assimilation in the modern era.’

News of Fellows

Our warmest congratulations to our Fellow Lesley Lewis, who celebrated her 100th birthday with her family on 8 March 2009. Perhaps few Fellows knew quite what a venerable age Lesley had reached: until five years ago, she attended almost every one of the Society’s Thursday meetings, and would not hesitate to tell a speaker off for not using the microphone if she could not hear the paper. Is Lesley, we wonder, the Society’s only centenarian Fellow?

Described as looking like ‘a wacky scientist crossed with an ageing hippie’ our Fellow Mick Aston was in York earlier this month to help launch ‘Dig’, a new archaeology attraction run by York Archaeological Trust to encourage young people to get interested in archaeology. While he was there he told the Yorkshire Post that ‘I don’t want all the kids who come here to become archaeologists; what I want is that, whatever job they go into, whether it’s business or local government, they are sympathetic to the subject’.

Speaking of his own childhood, Professor Aston said: ‘I had a father who was uneducated but was interested in all sorts of things. He made furniture and I was dragged round country houses and National Trust properties, not to see the wealth, but all the craftsmanship.’ Mick went to grammar school but it was a teacher at the secondary modern school next door who ran a history club, ‘which involved going and looking at old hill forts and Roman roads’ that got him hooked; by contrast his own careers teacher described Stonehenge as a ‘pile of old rocks’ and thought archaeology was ‘a crackpot subject’.

Mick worries that too few people will study archaeology in the future because archaeologists are so badly paid and have such uncertain careers that they cannot afford to pay university debts or afford a mortgage. On the other hand, he argues that ‘to work from nine to five every day for 40 years doing something that you’re not really interested in just for the money, so you can enjoy your weekends and holidays, is just madness to me; no archaeologist does it for the money: they do it because they are passionate and people who are motivated by this, rather than money, are always more interesting to work with.’

Those Fellows who like historical things that go ‘Bang!’ were in their element on a recent ‘Timewatch’ programme on BBC2 when they were seen casting and firing replica cannons for the programme on ‘Elizabeth’s Lost Guns’. Among them were Nicholas Hall and Graeme Rimer, testing cannon like those excavated from the Elizabethan warship wrecked off the Channel Island of Alderney. Our Fellow, marine archaeologist Mensun Bound, also took part, arguing that ‘Elizabeth’s navy created the first ever set of uniform cannon, capable of firing the same size shot in a deadly barrage … a giant leap forward in the way men fought at sea, years ahead of England’s enemies, and which was still being used to devastating effect by Nelson 200 years later.’ Clips from the programme can be watched on BBC iPlayer for the next three weeks at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hy68t.

Obituary: Alan Vince, FSA

Friends of the late Alan Vince have combined their recollections to produce the following appreciation of his life and achievements.

‘Alan Vince (born 30 March 1952; died 23 February 2009, aged 56) was one of Britain’s leading experts on the ceramics of the medieval and early modern periods and also at the forefront of Anglo-Saxon studies. Eschewing the art-historical approach that had dominated studies of such pottery for so long, he rigorously applied the geological and archaeological techniques in which he was equally accomplished. Reduced to its essentials, his method was to examine the petrological composition of a pottery vessel, comparing its constituents with rocks from known geological deposits. Working from microscope slides, and later also with chemical analysis of the clay itself (for which he developed the application of ground-breaking new techniques), he could deduce the geographical origin of the vessel — and sometimes even the precise kiln that had produced it centuries ago.

‘Whereas in many hands such information would have been of limited, purely academic, value, Alan analysed and compared tens of thousands of potsherds, from dozens of sites of all periods across the United Kingdom and beyond, so transforming our understanding of social and economic conditions in English towns. Sometimes the results were surprising. In London, for example, it emerged that the Norman Conquest of 1066 made no significant difference to the supply of pottery, to the types of vessel in use or, by inference, to the domestic way of life of most Londoners.

‘Born in Bath in 1952, Alan was educated at Keynsham Grammar School. For eight years he studied at the University of Southampton, where he came under the influence of David Peacock, who pioneered the application of geological techniques to the study of Roman pottery. His doctoral thesis on the medieval ceramic industry of the Severn valley was a large-scale survey of the region of his birth and covered, besides pottery vessels, tiles and ceramic building-materials — a subject upon which he would become a leading authority.

‘Never purely a specialist in artefacts, however, Alan also spent time as a site supervisor both at the Eastgate excavations at Gloucester with Carolyn Heighway, FSA, and at St Albans Abbey, where Fellows Martin Biddle and Birthe Kølbye-Biddle were directing excavations prior to the construction of a new chapter house. Prophetically, as things were to turn out, that dig was notable for locating, for the first time, remains of early to mid-Saxon St Albans, on the hill slope between Roman Verulamium and the medieval town.

‘After a short period directing excavations in Newbury during 1979, Alan took up a post in the Museum of London’s Department of Urban Archaeology (DUA). There he remained until 1988, eventually taking charge of research and the publication of artefacts of all periods. At the time of his arrival, the DUA had already explored over fifty sites in the City of London and had devised a system for classifying ceramics that was based on geological principles. It required someone with Alan’s towering managerial skills, however, to tackle the enormous logistical problem of classifying thousands of broken potsherds and interpreting them in the context of the buildings and other remains that also had been discovered.

‘Fortunately, much of the pottery had been dumped in common household rubbish behind the timber riverside walls by which medieval Londoners reclaimed ever-increasing tracts of land from the Thames. The walls could be given a precise calendar date by the nascent science of tree-ring dating, and this enabled Alan to produce a detailed type-series of all the pottery that had been in use in London from the mid-ninth to the mid-fifteenth centuries. The results were published in a series of books and journal articles that remain, to this day, the essential foundation for medieval ceramic studies, not only in London but also in much of Britain and on the continent.

‘Delegating routine ceramic analysis to a team of able assistants, Alan was soon managing the production of books on other medieval artefacts, such as knives, shoes or clothing. Though largely written by specialists in the field, they followed his rigorous methods, paying attention to the details of the materials used, craft techniques and chronology; all have been reprinted several times. Perhaps his most memorable single contribution, however, relates to the discovery of Saxon London. Because the medieval city lay within the walls of Roman Londinium, it was generally assumed that occupation of the site was continuous — albeit at a humble level — during the four centuries from AD 400 to 800. Yet, despite numerous digs, archaeologists had failed to find the slightest shred of supporting evidence.

‘Then, in the summer of 1984, both Alan and Martin Biddle, working entirely independently, published articles proposing that previous scholars had been searching in the wrong place. Saxon Lundenwic lay not within the Roman walls but to the west, along the Strand and Aldwych, ‘the old wic’. Almost immediately, excavation proved them right. Whereas Biddle had marshalled much of the requisite historical and place-name data, Alan, typically, had drawn his conclusion from a meticulous study of the artefacts that had been dug up over centuries and largely disregarded. His book, Saxon London (1990), was a wonderfully readable reassessment of this fascinating episode in London’s history.

‘In 1988 Alan was ready for a fresh challenge and moved to Lincoln, where, as a key figure in the City of Lincoln Archaeology Unit, he mentored a team through a major programme of research and publication. The resulting volumes, on sites excavated between 1972 and 1987, are a fitting testament to Alan’s inspirational leadership. Lincoln’s archaeology provided him with the opportunity to explore the history of a city through multi-period activity dating from the Late Bronze Age, through Roman and Saxon occupation to the important medieval ecclesiastical centre it became, and even into the growth of the industrial town in the mid-nineteenth century. His enthusiasm for ICT applications enabled a team of archaeologists to work concurrently on stratigraphical, artefactual and environmental information, culminating in an integrated approach to archaeological research and publication. Alan could be seen at his happiest in front of a computer exploring desktop publishing programmes or talking with colleagues about the Saxon pottery of Lincolnshire. His joint publication The City by the Pool: assessing the archaeology of the city of Lincoln (2003) has been acclaimed as the last word in urban archaeological assessment.

‘In 1995, Alan took up a part-time post in the Department of Archaeology at the University of York. He was one of the first to recognise that the personal computer would transform the day-to-day processing of archaeological data, and had created the Urban Archaeological Database for Lincoln, which was a model of its kind. Therefore it was natural that, from 1995 to 1999, he should serve as the first editor of a new on-line journal, Internet Archaeology. Insisting that traditional standards of scholarship must be upheld, but at the same time encouraging authors to make original use of the new technologies available, he laid the foundations for a series that now runs to twenty-five issues.

‘The need for scientific analysis and characterisation studies of ceramic fabrics was increasingly being recognised across Britain and beyond. It was therefore natural that someone with Alan’s unique gifts and experience should step into the breach to provide a much-needed service for the profession. In 1997, he founded his own company, Alan Vince Archaeological Consultancy, while continuing to work at York. As a ceramic petrologist, the demand for his specialist input into archaeological projects around the world had, by 1999, became so great that he decided to focus entirely on his flourishing consultancy work. In this capacity, he continued to play a crucial role in developing our understanding of pottery and building materials, as well as of their wider significance. His programmes of scientific analysis were of major importance in a wide and diverse array of projects from centres across Britain and Europe, even extending as far as Taiwan and Madagascar. Based on data collected from sites across mainland Britain, he established the AVAC Ceramic Chemical Composition Database, which provides an invaluable on-line resource.

‘Alan served as President of the Medieval Pottery Research Group between 1996 and 1999, and as Secretary of the Society for Medieval Archaeology between 1988 and 1993. His interests ranged widely beyond ceramics to include glass (he excavated a seventeenth-century glasshouse at Newent, Gloucestershire), clay tobacco pipes and decorated floor tiles. A superb teacher, whose critical acumen was mixed with extraordinary warmth, humour and generosity, he trained and encouraged a succession of assistants, many of whom have become distinguished ceramics experts in their own right. His list of publications is immense, but provides only a small measure of the far-reaching importance of a career curtailed far too early.

‘Alan was that very rare being, a man of vision who could see clearly the larger picture, but who was also intensely practical and knew how to achieve what he wanted. Alan’s loss to the archaeological world will be felt for many years to come. His wife, Joanna, whom he met on a dig in Coddenham, Suffolk, in 1973 and married in 1976, survives him, along with their three children, Leon, Amy and Kate.’

Feedback

First of all, profuse apologies to Oxford Archaeology, who were the true authors of the Nighthawking report featured in Salon 208, and not Wessex Archaeology, as was incorrectly stated. Alert readers also spotted that Salon had invented a new organisation, the Portable Antiquaries Scheme, which some rheumatic Fellows thought an admirable idea, but what was meant, of course, was the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Helen Forde also spotted that the obituary for Alfred Mabbs reproduced in Salon 208 was originally published in The Times on 25 February 2009, rather than 25 January, which would have meant the obituary appearing while he was still alive.

Salon 208’s reference to the ‘Nevin affair’ as it was known at the Victoria and Albert Museum reminded our Fellow Claude Blair that ‘it was still very much hot news when I joined the V&A in September 1956. He was not, in fact, an Assistant Keeper, but a Senior Museum Assistant, a position roughly equivalent to that of a Chief Clerk in a solicitor’s office: holders were not officially required to have any special knowledge of works of art, but most of them did. Nevin was in a particularly strong position to steal objects because he was in the old Circulation Department, the chief function of which was to lend ready-made exhibitions, complete with folding cases, to provincial museums, art-schools and the like, so objects from its collections, when not on loan, were held in store. Moreover, in 1944, he had apparently been put in charge of one of the stores to which Museum objects had been evacuated during the war, and had been involved in supervising the eventual return of its contents to South Kensington.

‘Our late Fellow Shirley Bury and her colleague Elizabeth Aslin, then in the Circulation Department, were, I have always understood, the people mainly, or wholly, responsible for exposing him, and I remember Shirley telling me that after the police had raided the Nevin residence, they telephoned the Department to ask if someone would arrange to come and collect the Museum objects they had found. Elizabeth Aslin went with some baskets, but later rang Shirley to say would she please send the Museum van!

‘One of the worst aspects of Nevin’s activities was that he mutilated objects: for example, he would take part of something, like the knob of a walking-stick and mount it on a separate base for display, or cut up textiles. I remember being told that when the police raided the Nevin residence, Mrs Nevin opened the door wearing an apron made out of part of an 18th-century church-vestment.’

From Fellow Percival Turnbull comes a bizarre story to add to the already overlong list of instances ofheritage theft. This one concerns an antiques dealer called Raymond Scott who was charged on 29 January 2009 with stealing Durham University’s Shakespeare first folio in December 1998, and donating it to the Folger Shakespeare Library, in Washington DC, ten years later, in summer 2008. Scott is pleading ‘very much not guilty’, and claims the two are different books. He bought his first folio, he says, in Cuba, the home of his fiancée, night club dancer Heidi Ross. Salon will report on the outcome when Mr Scott has his day in court.

It seems that Salon’s enthusiasm for Abbott & Holder (described in issue 208 as ‘a treasure trove of reasonably priced English watercolours, drawings, prints and oil paintings’) is somewhat naive and romantic; more than one Fellow has written to say that, in the same spirit as we were invited to support the Art Fund’s campaign to prevent the splitting up of the Minton archive, so we should deplore the splitting up of collections of topographical drawings. ‘Although most (though by no means all) of A+H’s stock has long since been deracinated from any archival context, preserving the integrity of the sketchbooks is still important to students of local history, archaeologists and biographers’, says one archivist Fellow, and another says that he has asked A+H several times to make copies of sketchbooks before razoring them, but to no avail — ‘they simply don’t have the time, it appears’.

As for the specific watercolours of Bedfordshire by Thomas Fisher, FSA, that led to the Salon report, Nigel Lutt, the County Archivist for Bedfordshire, writes with further background to what he describes as ‘a rather sad tale … this vast collection of watercolours originally belonged to the Shuttleworth family of Old Warden Park, Beds, until c 1976 when the last family member died and the estate trustees took over. We took 35mm colour transparencies of the collection in the mid-1970s. In the early 1990s the entire collection was sold, without any warning, to Abbott & Holder. The collection was broken up, and some of the best views found their way into many different hands. I suspect that the items now for sale at Abbott & Holder are just the sorry remnants. Had we but known in advance, we may have been able to launch an appeal to keep the collection intact. As it is our collection of transparencies is the only complete record of the collection as it once was.’

Events / calls for papers

31 March 2009 deadline for proposals of papers: Revealing Medieval and Renaissance Europe: makers and markets 1100 to 1600, V&A Lecture Theatre, 18 to 20 February 2010. The Medieval and Renaissance Galleries at the V&A opened to the public in November 2009, presenting an innovative display of the museum’s exceptional European collections dating from 300 to 1600. Focusing on one of the gallery themes and the date range 1100 to 1600, the aim of this conference is to cast new light on our understanding of artistic production, how objects were traded and used, and what this reveals about the cultures in which they were produced. Papers are invited that provide fresh interpretations of existing knowledge, or revelations that have arisen from research or conservation of medieval and Renaissance objects, as well as from archival discoveries. Contributions should relate directly to objects or contexts that are relevant to the V&A’s medieval and Renaissance collection. We are keen to receive papers that address inter-connections between different cultures or that highlight links across the periods covered by the webgalleries. For an ‘Expression of Interest Form’, please contact m.pye@vam.ac.uk.

31 March 2009 deadline for proposals of papers: ‘AD 410: Romans Go Home’, a conference at the British Museum, 13 and 14 March 2010. This two-day conference to discuss the end of Roman Britain is being run in partnership with the Roman Society, as part of its Centenary Year programme. 2010 will be the 1600th anniversary of the end of Roman Britain in AD 410, one of the greatest turning points in our history. The change is shrouded in mystery and is the stuff of fierce academic controversy. Historical accounts are minimal. Inscriptions are few. Archaeological evidence is notoriously patchy, ephemeral, and hard to interpret. The gaps in knowledge are filled by legends. Planned sessions include the continental background, language and literature, historical sources, the archaeological evidence and coinage. If you are interested in contributing to the conference, please contact our Fellow Sam Moorhead.

7 April 2009: ‘Palladio and Palladian London’. Join John Julius Norwich and our Fellow Gordon Higgott, Senior Investigator, English Heritage, at the Society of Antiquaries, for a morning session that includes two talks followed by a viewing of Andrea Palladio, His Life and Legacy at the Royal Academy. Those who wish to continue into the afternoon can enjoy lunch in Jermyn Street, followed by visits to The Banqueting House and other works by Inigo Jones. This is just one of several fund-raising events organised by the World Monuments Fund: others include guided visits to Tudor and Stuart Hampton Court on 21 April, Stowe Park on 14 May, Gothic survival churches and university buildings in Oxford on 4 June, St Paul’s and Wren’s City churches on 18 June, and Fellow David Starkey giving a lecture on ‘History and Things’ on 28 October. Full details are on the website of the World Monuments Fund.

24 April 2009: Transformations: a portrait of Maria Sibylla Merian, 6.30pm, BP Lecture Theatre, British Museum. The botanical paintings of Frankfurt-born Anna Maria Sibylla Merian (1647—1717) helped to lay the foundation for modern-day biological science. In her fifties, she made the arduous journey across the Atlantic into the interior of Surinam to study its animals, insects and plants, and her ‘Surinam Journal’ was part of the founding collection of the British Museum. This event — a special preview of a documentary film about Merian’s life and work — is designed to raise funds for the UK branch of the Friends of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which promotes the achievements of women artists of all periods and nations. Further information can be found on the UK-NMWA website.

25 April 2009, 7.30pm at St Mary’s Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire. The postponed 2008 Deerhurst Lecture will now take place on this date and will be given by Heather Gilderdale Scott on the subject of ‘Deerhurst, St Werstan and monastic myth-making in late medieval England’. Tickets will be available at the door or from Sue Coggin on 01452-780412. Further information will be found on the Friends of Deerhurst website.

15 May 2009: Planning and the Historic Environment: sharing church space and the Pastoral Amendment Measure (2006).
This year’s ‘Oxford Planning Seminar’, as it has come to be known, addresses a highly topical subject, and one that will be familiar to every Fellow who sits on a Diocesan Advisory Committee: how to keep historic places of worship at the heart of the community at a time of falling congregations and rising maintenance costs by sharing the building with various secular organisations. This course will examine the administrative and legal options and their strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of the Church of England, the clergy, local communities and those with whom buildings are shared. There will be a particular focus on the newest method of sharing space — leasing — made possible by the Pastoral Amendment Measure (2006).

The course Director is our Fellow Dr Paul Barnwell, and the speakers are The Revd Prebendary Philippa Boardman, Vicar of St Paul and St Mark, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Diana Evans, Head of Places of Worship Policy, English Heritage, Jonathan Goodchild, Casework and Law Officer, Cathedral and Church Buildings Division, Church of England, Rebecca Payne, Policy Officer, Cathedral and Church Buildings Division, Church of England, Susan Rowe, Freelance Consultant, Susan Rowe Associates, and Reader in the Cranmer Group of Parishes, Church of England, and Gill Withers, Community Shop Director, Plunkett Foundation.

Participation in the course can count towards the CPD requirements of the IfA and the IHBC. Further information from the Oxford Continuing Education Department’s website.

30 May 2009: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: searching for the Mesolithic, Tempest Anderson Hall, Yorkshire Museum, York, from 9.30am. The Prehistoric Society’s Europa Day conference 2009 is built around the research interests of the 2009 Europa prize winner, our Fellow Professor Peter Woodman, who retired in September 2006 after twenty-three years as Professor of Archaeology at University College Cork, and who will give the concluding lecture of the day, drawing together his conclusions from excavations at many Mesolithic sites in Ireland. Full details are on the Prehistoric Society’s website.

Books by Fellows

Our Fellow Peter Yeoman writes to say that the excavations that he directed at the well-preserved early monastic site of St Ethernan’s monastery, on the Isle of May, in the Firth of Forth, have now been published as a handsome and copiously illustrated monograph, called Excavations at St Ethernan’s Monastery, Isle of May, Fife 1992—7. The book shows how the May Isle excavations, along with those at Portmahomack and Inchmarnock, are advancing our understanding of early Christian Scotland. Fieldwork at St Ethernan’s monastery revealed continuity of Christian burial, settlement and worship from the fifth to the sixteenth centuries, along with some of the earliest remains of stone churches in southern Scotland. Published by Tayside and Fife Archaeological Committee (TAFAC), the 220-page book can be ordered for only £19, inc p&p, from John Sherriff, TAFAC, 21 Burleigh Crescent, Inverkeithing KY11 1DQ (cheques payable to TAFAC).

In the good old tradition whereby publications are financed by advance subscriptions, our Fellow Adrian Webb, Chairman of the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society’s Publications Committee, is offering Fellows the opportunity to subscribe to one of the most important sources of Somerset history for the eighteenth century: a reprint of Edmund Rack’s Survey of Somerset, consisting of the antiquarian notes made by Rack in the 1780s during his studies of the county’s churches, manors, customs, geology, agriculture, charities, fairs, trade, poor rates, manufacture, religion, education, architecture and monumental inscriptions.

The volume contains over 400 pages, with 30 illustrations, with an introduction, as well as indexes to personal names and places. Subscribers who send a cheque before 30 June made out to SANHS (please add £4.99 for postage if you are unable to collect your volume from the book launch in Taunton on a date to be announced) addressed to SANHS, Taunton Library, Paul Street, Taunton TA1 3XZ, are able to secure their copy for only £30 (saving £10 on the post-publication price) and will have their names included in the volume.

It is surely a sign of the times that there has been such a revival of interest in alternative politics in recent weeks, as members of the Socialist Workers’ Party gleefully watch the long-predicted collapse of global capitalism and publishers blow off the dust from books with ‘Marxist’ in the title that were last in demand when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and Prince Charles called a proposed addition to the National Gallery a ‘monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend’.

As well as being the resonant title of George Orwell’s futuristic novel, 1984 was the year in which the first Apple Mac went on sale, the miners’ strike began, Police Constable Yvonne Fletcher was killed by a gun fired from the Libyan People’s Bureau in central London, Indira Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh security guards in reprisal for having ordered the attack on the Golden Temple at Amritsar, and when the Bhopal Disaster killed 9,800 people and injured 600,000 others in possibly the worst industrial disaster in history.

All this is building up to the other important event of the year, which was the publication by Cambridge University Press of Fellow Matthew Spriggs’s classic Marxist Perspectives in Archaeology, commissioned by Fellow Robin Derricourt, then CUP’s head of humanities publishing, and edited by Fellow Kate Owen, then CUP’s Archaeology Editor, which to everyone’s pleasure and slight bemusement is to be republished as a paperback after a gap of twenty-five years. Matt says he is relieved to find that there must be more closet Marxists left out there than he had thought, having believed that only Fidel Castro and himself remained as true believers. He urges all good comrades to buy a copy now that it is available in paperback at a price that any reasonably frugal cadre can afford!