Research interests

Research Themes

Marilyn Palmer’s initial research, for which she was awarded her PhD, was into methods of teaching history in schools, particularly how children's cognitive ability could be advanced by using original archive material in teaching them history. Once in a Department of History rather than Education, she undertook research into the history and industrial archaeology of the East Midlands, and is still working on a biography of Francis Rawdon-Hastings, Earl of Moira, for which she has undertaken considerable research both in Scotland and the Huntingdon Library in Pasadena, California.

Her interest in the buildings of the local hosiery industry led to one of her major research interests, the archaeological evidence for the continuity of the domestic mode of production into the nineteenth century, and she has published widely on framework knitting and on the buildings of the textile industries both in south-west England and in Europe. With adult students in the 1980s and 1990s, she carried out extensive fieldwork on metal mining sites in Wales and Cornwall before this became the province of professional archaeological units.

Marilyn has carried out several field projects for The National Trust, particularly the survey and excavation of the limeyards on the Calke Abbey Estate, which has led to a major research interest in the technological development of great houses and their estates in the 19th century. She is also interested in the development of industrial landscapes, looking at the linkages between structures not just in functional but also in cultural terms. This led to an abiding interest in the archaeology of standing buildings and she wrote a module on this topic for the School’s Distance Leaning Programme.

Her concern to establish the academic credentials of industrial archaeology has led to major work on the theory of the discipline, particularly the social context of industrialisation. She has organised several conferences on professional initiatives in industrial archaeology, culminating in June 2004 in a seminar establishing a research framework in industrial archaeology, the papers from which were published in 2005. She was presented with an Award of Merit by the Society for Historical Archaeology during their first conference in the UK in 2005 for her work in establishing historical and industrial archaeology as part of mainstream archaeology.

In 2006, she was awarded two research fellowships to enable her to write The Cambridge Manual of Historical Archaeology. The first of these was a Gilder Lehrman Fellowship to work in the Rockefeller Library in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, where she was based in the Archaeology Division of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. The second was an All Souls Visiting Fellowship in All Souls College in Oxford.

Following her retirement from full-time teaching in 2008, she was been awarded a two year Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship to enable her to pursue her work on the social impact of technological change on country house estates. She also has links with Art History in the University of Leicester, who now host her Country House Technology Project.

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