Dean of Arts and Humanities, Professor of Environmental and Medieval History
Throughout my work I have pursued a strongly interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research (drawing particularly on History, Archaeology, Art/Architectural History and Place-Name Studies), arising from my 1st degree background in Medieval History with Archaeology (MA (Hons) St Andrews, 1983) and my PhD (St Andrews 1988). Much of my early research had a strong landscape focus, exploring themes of lordship, landholding and settlement history. On joining the permanent staff at Stirling in 2002, that landscape-based element within my research took a new direction into Environmental History. From 2003 I was an Associate Director of the AHRC Research Centre in Environmental History, a research unit whose work focused on themes around the broad issues of ‘waste and wasteland’. In 2006 I became the Director of the AHRC Research Centre’s successor, the Centre for Environmental History and Policy (CEHP) and, although I stood down from the position in September 2010 to become Head of the Faculty of History and Politics, I remain a member of CEHP and continue to channel my research through it. As a consequence of my work on Scotland’s historic landscape and environment, I have served as a member of the Scottish Government’s advisory group the Historic Environment Advisory Council, and as a representative for the Historic Rural Settlement Research Group on the management board of the HLF-funded Scotland’s Rural Past project (as Management Board chair since summer 2010).
This range of research interests is reflected in the collaborative research projects or groupings in which I have involvement. I am, for example, a member of the Norgesveldet og den norrøne verden group, an international research collective exploring aspects of Norse/Scandinavian North Atlantic past, and of Château Gaillard, the European castle-studies association, whose 2008 colloquium in Stirling I organised. From 2002 to 2008, I was Director of the Universities of Stirling and Dundee Scottish Burgh Survey Project, a research programme funded by Historic Scotland to examine the historical, archaeological and architectural development of a group of four of Scotland’s historic burghs, examine the inter-relationship between the urban centres and their rural hinterlands, and assess the past and future potential impacts of property development on their historic fabric and archaeological remains. In collaboration with Professor Richard Fawcett and Dr Julian Luxford at the University of St Andrews, I am involved in the Corpus of Scottish Medieval Parish Churches project, the results of the AHRC-funded pilot of which are online at http://arts.st-andrews.ac.uk/corpusofscottishchurches/ While focused primarily on the buildings themselves, this project aims also to expand our understanding of the origins and development of the parish system in Scotland and is providing new insights onto the relationship between communities, their environmental resources, and the lay and ecclesiastical authorities in the Middle Ages.
My landscape-based research in Environmental History provides a perfect excuse to undertake extensive fieldwork in the Scottish mountains and to climb as many as possible (of course) in search of medieval property boundaries, shieling sites and hunting grounds, all followed by detailed post-trip critical analysis in the nearest pub.