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Matthew H. Johnson

Kenneth F. Burgess Professor of Anthropology

PhD Cambridge 1990
Curriculum Vitae


Matthew Johnson works on the archaeology of the British Isles in its Northern Atlantic and European context.  He has written six books on a range of themes, including castles, traditional houses, landscape, and an archaeology of capitalism.  His best known book is Archaeological Theory:  An Introduction:  the revised third edition appeared in 2019. He has also written more widely on interdisciplinary and interpretive approaches, understanding medieval and historical archaeology, and archaeology in its cultural context. 

He most recently worked ‘in the field’ at Bodiam Castle and nearby houses and landscapes in southeastern England.  Bodiam is an iconic site, termed a ‘fairytale castle’ by visitors.  It has been a classic study in debates over society and culture in the later Middle Ages.  The collaborative Anglo-American project explored the castle and its surroundings as a living landscape of people of different social classes and identities.  Places like Bodiam are best understood as a series of scales, ranging from the action of washing hands in the chapel piscina through to their setting within global and postcolonial networks. 

 He has taught a range of topics including: 

  • archaeological and social theory;
  • the cultural context of archaeology;
  • archaeological techniques in both the field and the classroom, particularly standing buildings, landscape, maps, air photos, and documentary sources;
  • the archaeology and history of Europe from the Roman Empire to the 19th century, and all points in between. 
  • world historical archaeology.

 Prof Johnson was born in Austin, Texas, and is a dual US/British citizen.  He has held visiting fellowships and positions at UC-Berkeley, Heidelberg University, UCLA, Flinders University, University of Cambridge, and the University of Pennsylvania.  After a PhD at Cambridge and posts at Sheffield, Durham and Southampton, he returned across the Atlantic in 2011 to become Professor and sometime Chair of Anthropology at Northwestern University. He was selected as a Guggenheim Fellow in 2019.

 He is currently working on a book on the archaeology of the English in the Atlantic world in the second millennium CE.  He traces material landscapes and identities from the English Middle Ages, through the feudal settlements of Wales, Scotland and Ireland, to the plantations and colonies of New England, Virginia and the Caribbean.  His aim is to explore the landscapes, buildings and objects that people made and used, and how these were bound up with the changing identities of the English and their neighbors over the very long term.

 Here are links to Prof Johnson’s CV, his profile on Northwestern Scholars, his ResearchGate site, his work on neo-Romantic reconstruction artist Alan Sorrell, and an interview on archaeology and medieval castles.   

Selected Publications


1993    Housing Culture:  Traditional Architecture in an English Landscape.  London, University College London Press (published in USA by Smithsonian).

1996    An Archaeology of Capitalism.  Oxford, Blackwell.

1999 and 2010    Archaeological Theory:  An Introduction.  Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell.  Translated into Spanish (Madrid, Editorial Ariel), Chinese (Minerva Press), Serbian (CLIO Publishing), Korean (Gyeongnam Archaeology Institute), Greek (Crete University Press), Polish (Jagellonian University Press) and Turkish.  Second revised edition 2010; third revised edition 2019.

2002    Behind the Castle Gate:  From Medieval to Renaissance.  London, Routledge.  One of three nominated for the biennial 2002 Archaeological Book Prize.

2006    Ideas of Landscape.  Oxford, Blackwell.  Selected by Margaret Drabble as one of her Books of the Year.

2010    Archaeological Theory:  An Introduction.  Second revised edition.  Oxford, Blackwell.

2010    English Houses 1300-1800:  Vernacular Architecture, Social Life.  London, Longman.

2017 (ed.) Lived Experience in the Later Middle Ages:  Studies of Bodiam and Other Elite Sites in South-East England.  St Andrews, Highfield Press; full text is also available at ResearchGate, and on the project website at

2019    Archaeological Theory: An Introduction. Third Revised Edition. Oxford, Blackwell. 

Selected Recent Papers 

(More available on ResearchGate)

2011     English culture and English landscape.  In Bate, J. (ed.) The Public Value of the Humanities.  London, Bloomsbury, 118-130.

2011     On the nature of empiricism in archaeology.  Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17, 764-787.

2011     English culture in the Atlantic world.  In Leone, M. and Schablitsky, J. (eds),  Historical Archaeology and the Importance of Material things II.  Society for Historical Archaeology Special Publication Series 9, 167-185.

2012     Phenomenological approaches to landscape archaeology.  Annual Review of Anthropology 41, 269-84.

2013     What do medieval buildings mean? History and Theory 52, 380-399.

2014     (with Sara Perry) Reconstruction art and disciplinary practice: Alan Sorrell and the negotiation of the archaeological record.  Antiquaries Journal 94, 1-30.

2015     English houses, materiality, and everyday life.  Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 26, 27-39.

2015     The first fact:  discourses of culture in Anglophone archaeology.  Post-Classical Archaeologies 5, 327-346. 

2018     Towards a political ecology of the medieval castle.  In Milhauser, J. et. al. (eds) Uneven Terrains:  Archaeological Approaches to Political Ecology.  Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 28, 51-67.

2019     1492:  a different kind of ‘discovery’.  In DeCorse, C. (ed.) Power, Political Economy, and Historic Landscapes of the Early Modern World.  Binghamton, SUNY Press, 25-54.