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The regional overview that was published in 2006 incorporated a period-based research agenda and identified a series of overarching research themes. This formed the foundation for an Updated Research Agenda and Strategy that was published in 2012 and launched later that year at a conference in Derby. That document represented the final stage for the East Midlands of the Regional Research Framework initiative that was proposed in Frameworks for our Past and incorporated a research agenda for the region’s historic environment that we hope will be revised regularly on the basis of input to this digital resource.
Compiling the Agenda
The Agenda accompanying the 2006 regional synthesis was compiled following extensive discussions with stakeholders in 2001, and it was decided that this should be updated prior to the development of a research strategy. This was deemed necessary to ensure the inclusion of important new research, to embrace new concerns such as climate change and to formulate a more holistic approach to the historic environment in keeping with current philosophy Updating of the original Agenda was coordinated by David Knight and Blaise Vyner, with valuable input from Carol Allen in its earlier stages. It was made possible by funding provided by Historic England and was guided by a Steering Group with members drawn from the curatorial, academic, contracting and consultancy sectors. The project also benefited from the input of an advisory panel comprising a broad range of period and subject experts who advised on all aspects of the historic environment. Beyond this, we consulted widely with individuals and organisations with interests in the historic environment, including developers, consultants and voluntary bodies, together with archaeologists and buildings specialists from the academic, contracting, curatorial and museum sectors. Representatives of other national and regional organisations, including such diverse bodies as Historic England, the National Trust, The Institute for Historic Building Conservation, Natural England and the Environment Agency, were also consulted.
Our first task was to summarise the published Agenda and to circulate the summary for comment. This provided a springboard for a public seminar in May 2008, which aimed to update the Agenda and to identify key research priorities. Attendees recommended further consultation with built environment specialists, and accordingly a separate workshop on the built environment was convened in December 2008. This generated an Agenda document for the built environment that, along with all other comments received, was integrated into an updated Research Agenda.
Presenting the Agenda
The Updated Research Agenda defined a series of period-based Themes and Topics and a number of overarching research themes that straddle the conventional period divides. This distinction is maintained here, as described below.
For ease of reference, the research priorities identified during stakeholder discussions are summarised in tabular form for each of the nine periods that form the chronological framework of this resource. Up to ten research themes were identified for each period. These themes were numbered consecutively by period (1.1, 1.2, etc) and for clarity have been colour-coded in the accompanying tables. More specific research topics were identified within each theme, and to facilitate referencing have been allocated unique numerical codes denoting respectively period, theme and topic (1.1.1, 1.1.2. etc). Attention has been focused upon questions that may potentially be answered by reference to the historic environment resource of the East Midlands, although many of these also resonate with issues of national concern. Environmental archaeology was discussed separately in The Archaeology of the East Midlands, but in the Updated Agenda and Strategy was integrated fully into the period syntheses. This reflected concerns that environmental issues, which are central to our understanding of landscape change, should be taken fully into account when formulating research proposals.
Many of the general themes that were identified in the period syntheses, such as the development of the agricultural economy or the growth of towns, overlap the archaeologically or historically defined period boundaries that provide the chronological framework for this study. These are brought together in a subsequent section, which identifies a number of overarching research themes to which East Midlands sites can make an especially significant contribution.