Pamela Jane Smith takes the title of her work from Anthony Quinton's description of archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge University in the interwar period; a time when 'Archaeology was a comparatively marginal subject in Cambridge … and many of its exponents were amateurish or odd or both' (quoted by Smith 2009: 1) – a comment that could be applied to many British archaeologists of that era, not just those of Cambridge.
The study, based on her 2004 doctoral thesis, is offered as 'a block for the building of a broader informed history of British academic archaeology' (Smith 2009: 1), and its author sets out to chart how archaeology was institutionalised as a university degree subject at Cambridge between the early and the middle years of the twentieth century.
The theoretical approach is threefold. Firstly, the research schools model taken from history of science studies. This suggests that the success of a research school is likely to be associated with a charismatic leader with a research reputation, combined with a 'focused research programme, a pool of recruits, new exploitable techniques, new fields of research and a publication outlet' (Smith 2009: 6).
Secondly, geography of knowledge insights in relation to the spread of Cambridge archaeology, and finally a gender-based analysis. A methodology section is followed by chapters containing biographical sketches of three key figures (and many more minor ones) seen as protagonists in successive decades of Cambridge archaeology – for the twenties, Miles Burkitt, for the thirties, Grahame Clark, and for the forties, Dorothy Garrod. The conclusion is that whilst archaeology under the influence of Grahame Clark fits the research schools model, the case is less than clear in respect of Burkitt and Garrod. Smith suggests the research schools model needs to be modified to take account of 'strong emotions, motivations and belief systems' in the case of Burkitt (Smith 2009: 105), and to highlight gender issues – an important dimension during Dorothy Garrod's tenure as Disney Professor at Cambridge. In addition, the top-down, charismatic leader model is found wanting, requiring to be augmented by a more nuanced faculty-wide corporate knowledge approach. The model also needs modification to account for the agency of the student population – self-starting and creative students were a key factor in disseminating Cambridge archaeology throughout the world. Much importance is also attributed to the museum tea-room, as a place where informal discussion of academic ideas could take place, and a climate of trust nurtured. Attached to the study is a lengthy appendix comprising of transcripts of taped interviews with a number of distinguished ex-Cambridge students.
The most successful and absorbing parts of the work are the three central chapters of biographical information, painting a wonderfully rich picture of archaeology as practised at Cambridge in the study period, supplemented by some fascinating interviews in the appendix. The theoretical arguments are less convincing. Smith is clearly critical of the 'stage-oriented archaeological history of the world in 300 pages' seeking 'to recover intentions, reconstruct conventions and restore context in a fine grained analysis' (Smith 2009: 13) and fortunately for her readers, she mostly escapes from her theoretical shackles. It should be remembered that the monograph represents Smith's thinking of five years ago when submitted as her doctoral thesis. It seems she came late in her research upon Richard West's unpublished A History of Quaternary Research in Britain, suggesting a less innovative role for Grahame Clark in respect of pollen analysis, which had already been pioneered in Scandinavia. Would the research schools model have looked weaker if this document had been available earlier? The most recent references in the bibliography are for 2002, and the majority no later than the late 1990s, so a decade has now passed since the bulk of the literature review was undertaken. Indeed, one small criticism might be that the bibliography was not updated for publication. Cohen and Joukowsky's work Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists, described as being 'in press', was published as long ago as 2004. At times Smith struggles to reconcile her findings with her theoretical framework – as if Smith the social anthropologist was at odds with Smith the historian of science. There must be a question mark as to how far the research schools model is serviceable when applied to the history of archaeology for the interwar period, and the confident assertions about the utility of the model are belied by the modifications that had to be made to it in the light of the data.
The story of how archaeology moved from the amateur sphere to being a professionalised academic discipline is well known. Stuart Piggott's 1963 address to the Prehistoric Society can be seen as a notable example of this foundation myth. It is in keeping with those 'sweeping accounts of grand accomplishments … leading to the pinnacle of our present state of knowledge' (Smith 2009: 13). There are other and more messy tales to tell. During the interwar period a number of factors came together to promote popular interest in archaeology. Not only were there the birth of Crawford's Antiquity, and the well publicised excavations of sites such as Maiden Castle by Mortimer Wheeler, but many amateur archaeological societies flourished, and there was a link to the burgeoning 'outdoors movement' (see Tattersall 2007) – Miles Burkitt himself had a two-part article entitled 'The Hiker and His Prehistoric Forefathers' published in The Hiker and Camper in 1934 (Volume 4: 38–39 & 62–63). Piggott, Jacquetta Hawkes and others were broadcasting popular archaeology programmes on the radio, there was a burgeoning travel and tourism industry, with 'heritage tourism' being a distinct sector, and publishers were producing ever increasing numbers of travel and topography books, often incorporating substantial archaeological material – Grahame Clark's own Prehistoric England (1940), written for the popular market, and part of Batsford's 'British Heritage Series' being but one example (Graham Connah cites the book as an important influence on his decision to enter archaeology – Smith 2009: 123). There may be more prosaic reasons for the rising numbers of archaeology students at Cambridge, apart from the undoubted brilliance of Grahame Clark, and Burkitt's popular articles suggest that, for all his research limitations, he was an effective recruiting sergeant for the discipline. A large informal network of archaeologists existed right through the interwar period with Cambridge being but one node. The 'invisible college' (see Levine 1986: 36–37) would seem to have been the moving force in British archaeology. Cambridge, with its elite and imperial connections was well placed to spread its gospel overseas as archaeology became more university centred, but that seems to have been a post-war development. Indeed, support for this view is provided by another of Smiths' informants – Warwick Bray (Smith 2009: 114). Smith's oral testimonies gathered from Bray and Thurstan Shaw lend credence to the continuing importance of the amateur in the interwar era. Warwick Bray recalls: 'Most of what we as academics did was irrelevant. … statistically more was getting done day-to-day by amateurs … There's a parallel world out there at least in those days' (Smith 2009: 116).
Alberti has argued how in relation to laboratory scientists and field naturalists in late Victorian Yorkshire, the rift between professionals and amateurs was 'largely a retrospective construction by two groups: firstly the new professionals defining themselves against "fungus-hunters", and later, those who chronicled the biologists' history.' (Alberti 2001: 142). Did not the same process take place in archaeology, with the myth being propagated by the academic professionals with their new salaried career structures (largely a post-war phenomenon), and their subsequent chroniclers? Burkitt seems to have been in no doubt that a budding archaeologist needed a substantial private income in the interwar years (Smith 2009: 189), suggesting the 'gentleman amateur' was still alive and well, and Crawford's 'ferrets' of the interwar period were a valuable amateur supplement to the work of professionals (see Hauser 2008), demonstrating the blurred and artificial nature of the whole amateur-professional divide. It was the keen amateur archaeologists who were the source of inspiration for many who became involved in the discipline in the 1920s and 1930s, as a number of Smith's interviewees confirm. Warwick Bray argues that it took until the early 1960s before the demand for paid employment in archaeology started to disappear along with the need for a private income (Smith 2009: 114). Perhaps that is when the professionalisation process became really entrenched, which fits in nicely with the date of Piggott's 1963 address.
Whilst the importance of Cambridge in the interwar years may be exaggerated in Smith's account, her work is undoubtedly groundbreaking. As a result of some determined sleuthing she has uncovered a goldmine of new material – not only from her innovative oral interviews, which are an extraordinarily valuable primary source for historians of archaeology, but also in respect of many of the documentary sources she has uncovered. Particular mention should be made of the tracking down of the Garrod papers in France, plus the Tom Lethbridge material, and what would appear to be important unpublished memoirs and papers in relation to Thurstan Shaw, C. W. Phillips and Miles Burkitt.
One of the great strengths of the study is its ability to switch focus from the 'big beasts' like Grahame Clark and Dorothy Garrod, and to examine some of the supporting players. It would have been good to hear even more about the previously unsung Palestinian excavator Yusra (Smith 2009: 85), which addresses both sexual and racial biases in much archaeological writing. Similarly, the biographical portraits of Maureen O'Reilly and Charles Denston make a refreshing change in their insistence on the importance of two individuals who were significant in the development of archaeology at Cambridge, but who would both normally have been written out of the script due to their less elevated roles (Smith 2009: 65–68).
Does the work succeed in its stated aim to be a building block for future work? The answer must be a resounding 'yes'. Smith has presented us with a pioneering study in the growing field of the history of archaeology, consistent with her role as a leading scholar in the area. She has given us tantalizing glimpses of a whole series of fascinating books waiting to be written. The limitations of the doctoral thesis format undoubtedly constrained her from developing some of the interesting directions in which her research was taking her. However, as a vehicle for demonstrating the potential of oral history techniques, the exercise has been a valuable one, and it is to be hoped that these are only the first of her 'roses gathered in winter'.
Alberti, S. 2001. Amateurs and Professionals in One County: Biology and Natural History in Late Victorian Yorkshire. Journal of the History of Biology 34: 115–147, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4331636.