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Name: Robert Frost

PhD: Historical Geography

Thesis Title: Sir John Gardner Wilkinson: cultures of antiquarianism in Egypt, Europe and England


Thesis Description:

My research primarily focuses on the life of Sir John Gardner Wilkinson (1797-1875), a Georgian/ Victorian polymath. Despite being regarded as the 'Father of British Egyptology', Wilkinson is relatively little-known today among non-specialists compared with more famous Egyptologists of the later nineteenth century such as Flinders Petrie. In part, I believe this is due to Wilkinson's own eclectic approach. Unlike later Egyptologists, Wilkinson's methodology was more closely aligned to that of the antiquary (involving copying, sketching and cast-making, as opposed to excavation and investigating site histories), a methodology which has been overlooked by a search for ancestors in modern Egyptology. Additionally, Wilkinson was not confined to Egypt: after writing a much-celebrated book, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians (1837), he resumed a 'Grand Tour' of the Mediterranean, including a visit to the Balkans highly unusual for British travellers of the time, immediately prior to the struggle of nationalist agitators in the region.

Much of the material I will be looking at is in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Quite unusually for Victorian scholars, there is a substantial archive, of Wilkinson's sketchbooks, travel journals and correspondence. Looking at Wilkinson's travels across the Mediterranean world and regarding Wilkinson as an antiquarian, I aim to bring together different strands of Wilkinson's life, extending well beyond ancient cultures, toward Wilkinson's appreciation of the modern social/ political scene and also his contribution to physical geography. I am also interested in the scale of Wilkinson's contribution to modern professional disciplines, an angle that Sweet (2004) has highlighted as previously underappreciated for antiquaries.


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Professor Charles Watkins (University of Nottingham)

Doctor Ross Balzaretti (University of Nottingham)

Professor Roey Sweet (University of Leicester)


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

I am Lead Editor for other research outputs (book reviews, exhibition reviews, conference proceedings) at the Midlands Historical Review journal.



Other Research Interests:

  • History of Egyptology, Archaeology and Antiquarianism
  • Exploration and travel writing histories
  • Colonial History and geography
  • The British in Egypt (from colonial encounter to the colonial occupation)
  • The British in the Balkans
  • Environmental History (inc. Botany)
  • Visual cultures of the above


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