Richard Alexander

So… A selection of books, some chosen because of memories and associations attached to them, some chosen more for their content…

51pq4c8deql-_sy344_bo1204203200_1. Saunders, Nicholas Killing Time: Archaeology And The First World War (2010 – The History Press)

In some ways I became a conflict archaeologist by accident rather than intent. I picked up a copy of this book, and read it – it was the first conflict archaeology book I had read, and shortly after Nick Saunders was doing a talk nearby, I went to see him talk, and introduced myself to him – a week or so later I was contacting him to see if I could join the masters degree at Bristol Uni. So, this book is an important one to me as it played an important role in my decision to study at Bristol.

2. Williams-Freeman J. P An Introduction to Field Archaeology as Illustrated by Hampshire (1915 – MacMillan & Co)

This was published just over a hundred years ago, and is one of the first (possibly is the first) field archaeology book published in the UK – and I have a 1st edition of it 🙂 I live in Hampshire, and know sites which were covered in this book a century ago. Many of the archaeological features I have surveyed in the last couple of years were being created in the same landscape as this book at the same time it was being written.

3. McOmish, D & Field, D & Brown, G The field archaeology of the Salisbury Plain Training Area (2002 English Heritage)

I live near the Aldershot military training area, and have spent many days exploring, surveying, and studying it. I like this book as there are some broad similarities between the training areas – so it reminds me of good times spent there with friends, and also of solitary moments there on my own. Just as is the case with my local training area, military occupation of Salisbury Plain has protected a landscape from being obliterated by housing development or modern farming techniques, it has also alongside this laid down a landscape of 20th century military features.

4. Bender, Barbara & Winer, Margot Contested Landscapes: Movement, Exile and Place (2001 – Berg)

Series of papers looking at how people and landscapes interact, and how different approaches to the landscape bring about conflict and create identity. It’s divided into two sections, one on contested landscapes, and one on movement and exile (I have to confess – I spend more time in the section on contested landscapes). It covers all manner of landscapes from prehistoric, up to the twentieth century in the new forest.

5.  Schofield, J After Modernity: Archaeological Approaches to the Contemporary Past (2010 – Oxford University Press)

This book looks at contemporary subjects with an archaeological methodology with a view to demonstrating that new things can be learnt from our contemporary archaeology in the same way that archaeology helps us understand the distant past. It uses a diverse range of topics, including transit vans, Ikea, the Cold War, the Star Wars film set, and many other subjects. It’s engagingly and accessibly written.

k69226. Caplan, Jane Written on the Body: the Tattoo in European and American History (2000 – Reaktion Books)

I have quite a few tattoo books in my bookshelf. This one is probably the one I pick up most often – a collection of essays on different aspects of the history of tattoos. It’s easy to dip in and out of – often something to suit my mood when I want to read something but can’t decide what to read.

7. Ryde, Robin. Sofianos, Lisa. Waterhouse, Charlie. The Truth of Revolution, Brother, An Exploration of Punk Philosophy (2014 – Situation Press)

Published as a philosophy book, rather than an archaeology book; nonetheless it gives an interesting insight into the punk movement. Partly picked as 2016 has seen the mass heritageisation of punk based on it’s (subjective) 40th anniversary, and also as punk’s attitudes and philosophy are an important part of late 20th century culture. The book stays off the beaten track of the commercially successful bands, no Clash, Pistols, Ramones or Damned here. It is made up mostly of a series of interviews (with the likes of TV Smith, Charlie Harper, Jello Biafra, Penny Rimbaud) about views and opinions, and less about the music.

8. Dawes, Christopher. Rat Scabies and The Holy Grail (2005 – Sceptre)

Yep, if I’m stranded on a desert island on my own I’m going to need to keep my spirits up… so, some light hearted pseudo-archaeology, and it even features a punk drummer! This is an account of journalist Christopher Dawes, and his friend and neighbour Rat Scabies and their explorations into Grail lore. It does give some insight into the world of pseudo-archaeology. It’s also nonsense, but entertaining nonsense!

9. Carr, Gillian & Mytum, Harold. Prisoners of War: Archaeology, Memory and Heritage of 19th and 20th Century Mass Internment (2013 – Springer)

On account of having done a dissertation on Prisoners of War I have quite a few books on internment and captivity. Mainly on the list because of the piece on Norman Cross camp, and because of the piece about negotiating space in civilian camps in WW2 Germany.

10. R. Alexander Captivity and Cultivation (unpublished)

My masters dissertation – about German prisoners working in agriculture in Britain during WW1. I wrote it, bound it, submitted it, and put a copy on my bookshelf. Since then I have looked at it once (I’m sure this is far from uncommon). I was never really happy with it (again, I’m sure this isn’t uncommon) . So given time on my hands it would be good to read it, maybe realise it wasn’t as bad as I picture it as being. It would also be good to read and see what I have learned since I did it and how I might do it better now.


Richard currently works in public libraries. In his spare time he likes to survey military archaeology features on the nearby military training area, and take part in community archaeology projects. He studied a master’s degree in 20th Century Conflict Archaeology at Bristol University, and hopes to return for a PhD in due course.

He can be on Twitter at @RickJAlexander