Photo of Professor Oliver Creighton

Professor Oliver Creighton

Research interests

Oliver Creighton researches and publishes in the following fields:

Medieval castles and elite culture

Oliver has a long-term research interest in the study of medieval castles within their broader landscape and social contexts and in the impact of lordship upon society and landscape.  His first book was Castles and Landscapes (2002), now available as a second edition (Castles and Landscapes: Power, Community and Fortification in Medieval England, 2005) in paperback.

A more recent publication that explores the wider European context of early castle building is Early European Castles: Aristocracy and Authority, AD800-1200 (2012). Oliver has also published a concise guide to the subject with R.A. Higham, Medieval Castles (2003), as well as numerous other journal articles and papers in edited volumes. He continues to pursue new approaches to the study of castles, with particular emphasis on their social and symbolic roles.

A linked research project, funded by a Leverhulme Trust grant, was the first ever archaeological study of the 'Anarchy' of King Stephen’s reign on the landscape. This has produced two books: The Anarchy: Conflict and Landscape in 12th-Century England (2016) and Castles, Siegeworks and Settlements: Surveying the Archaeology of the Twelfth Century (2016), as well as a series of journal articles. Read a blog on these publications here.

Landscape archaeology (especially ‘designed’ and elite landscapes)

The phrase ‘designed landscape’ is generally associated with the great parks and gardens of the post-medieval period. But can the concept of landscape design by traced back before the Renaissance? Oliver’s 2009 monograph Designs upon the Land: Elite Landscapes of the Middle Ages explores how elite landscapes of the medieval period were manipulated for reasons of leisure, pleasure and visual impact.

Medieval urbanism and townscapes

The archaeology, heritage and social history of town defences is another central theme within Oliver’s research. Along with Exeter colleague Robert Higham, Oliver published the first volume of research on the subject for over thirty years, Medieval Town Defences: A Social History and Archaeology (2005).

Oliver was also a co-director of a major AHRC-funded research project that investigated the historic townscape of Wallingford in Oxfordshire. Working with the Universities of Leicester and Oxford, the project culminated in the 2013 volume published in the Society for Medieval Archaeology Monographs Series Transforming Townscapes. From Burh to Borough: The archaeology of Wallingford, AD 800–1400. Oliver is interested in the origins and functions of open space within medieval towns and led the first ever geophysical survey of Exeter's Cathedral Green.

Archaeological heritage and heritage management

Oliver also researches in the field of archaeological heritage management, with a particular interest in buildings and landscapes. He co-directed the AHRC-funded project Community and Landscape: Transforming Access to the Heritage of the Poltimore Estate. Running from 2010–12, this knowledge exchange project promoted public involvement with the rich and multi-layered heritage of a country estate in the Exeter region. Learn more about the Poltimore House Trust by following this link.