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Vere Gordon Childe

551 329

Description Vere Gordon Childe

Date 1930 to 1946

Collection Vere Gordon Childe

Catalogue Number 551 329

Category All Other

Scope and Content Collection of negatives of archaeological sites and monuments in Scotland including Childe's major excavations at Skara Brae neolithic settlement, 1927-30; Finavon fort, 1933-5; Castle Law fort, Glencorse, 1931-32; and Berries Burn fort 1939. Within the collection are two notebooks and a large number of negatives, illustrating monuments in Argyll, Perthshire and Angus, dating from Childe's appointment as a Commissioner of RCAHMS, 1942-43.

Archive History Presented by RCHME and Institute of Archaeology, University of London.

System of Arrangement The original order has been changed. Generally organised by excavation.

Related Material Related material in our collections: Acc No 1996/520 includes black and white photographs and articles from the Illustrated London News originally owned by V G Childe. Acc No 1998/118 – Gordon Childe appears with Iain Richmond in photographs taken at various archaeological sites. Related material held elsewhere: KV 2/2149: Personal Files housed in the Records of the Security Service Archive, The National Archives. MS Collections: Correspondence with C F Fox, c1938-43, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. MSS Myres: Correspondence with O G S Crawford, 1922-53 held at the Special Collections, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. SxMs29: letter to J G Crowther, 1935-52, Sussex University Library Special Collection. Correspondence with R Palme Dutt, 1931-60, Labour History Archive and Study Centre (People’s History Museum/University of Central Lancashire). Childe's original excavation notebooks have been deposited in the Institute of Archaeology, University of London; copies of the Scottish material are held in HES Archives.

Access Conditions Open, but note that access may be subject to provisions outlined in the Data Protection Act and conservation requirements. Please contact the archive to confirm access in advance of a visit.

Administrative History Vere Gordon Childe, born 14 April 1892, was an Australian archaeologist, linguist, and historian, widely considered as one of the most influential and eminent of the 20th century, and one of the earliest proponents of cultural-historical archaeology and experimental archaeology. After reading Classics at the University of Sydney and Classical archaeology at the University of Oxford, he had a short-lived career as private secretary to the Labour politician John Storey from 1917. Emigrating to the UK in 1921, he became librarian at the Royal Anthropological Institute in London, and it was from his trips across Europe in this post that he introduced the concept of archaeological culture to British archaeology. From 1927 to 1946 he was Abercromby Professor of archaeology at the University of Edinburgh (his longest-held academic post), during which time he developed his signature archaeological interpretation and analysis framework based upon Marxist ideology, and oversaw excavations at some of Scotland’s most important prehistoric sites, including Maeshowe, Quoyness, most notably uncovering the Neolithic village at Skara Brae on Orkney between 1928 and 1930. His approach to cultural change and the development of human society as evidenced by archaeological data was underpinned by international, comparative and materialist ideas, and was hugely influential across the fields of archaeology and cultural anthropology. As well as making one of the first substantial attempts to establish the relationship between Eastern and Western pre-literate cultures, Childe also notably proposed that human society across time has been subject to large and small scale technological or economic “revolutions”, such as the “agricultural revolution” (the transition from hunting and gathering to farming) and the “urban revolution” (the shift from small villages and tribal societies to towns and cities), that have played a vital role in the development of culture. Although with the advent of radiocarbon dating much of Childe’s analysis and interpretation has been revised and rejected in subsequent decades, his combination of anthropology, social theory and archaeology and theories on cultural synthesis were considered major turning points for European and Eastern archaeology, and he is hence still regarded as one of the most important archaeologists of his generation. In 1934, he formed the Prehistoric Society with Stuart Piggot and Graham Clark, being elected its first president. In 1946 Childe left Edinburgh to serve as Director of the Institute of Archaeology in London, a post he held until 1956, when he retired a year prematurely. A Festschrift was published in his honour to commemorate his achievements, and most of his library and his estates were bequeathed to the Institute. Childe returned to Australia, and spent some months travelling the country visiting friends and relatives and lecturing upon Australian prehistory. On October 19th 1957, Childe fell 1000 feet to his death in the Blue Mountains, where he had grown up; although originally ruled as accidental, publication of a letter in the 1980s written just before his death to his friend and successor at the Institute W.F. Grimes revealed his fears of aging and of being a burden of society, and his intention to take his own life - his death is now largely considered suicide. A life-long socialist with links to the International Workers of the World and a conscientious objector to the First World War, Childe expressed dislike for both the fascism of wartime Europe and the imperialism of the UK and the United States. He loathed racism, speaking out strongly against academic racism towards indigenous Australian societies, and was deeply angered by Nazi use of prehistoric archaeology and cultural theories to promote an Aryan racial heritage. He wrote 26 books on varying subjects across archaeology, anthropology, and social theory, becoming in 1957 the most translated Australian author to date. Declared upon his death to be the "greatest prehistorian, and a wonderful human being" (Tringham 1983, 85), V. Gordon Childe remains deeply respected and admired for his contributions, and a life spent dedicated to the discipline.

Accruals No further accruals expected.


Collection Hierarchy - Collection Level

Collection Level (551 329) Vere Gordon Childe

Preview Category Catalogue Number Title Date Level
All Other 551 329/14 Rinyo Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/1 Finavon Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/9 Freswick Links Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/10 Gorton House Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/11 Cleaven Dyke Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/12 Doonmore, Antrim Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/13 Unidentified sites Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/4 Old Keig Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/5 Castle Law, Glencorse Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/6 Jarlshof Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/7 Kindrochet Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/3 Kaimes Hill Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/8 Earn's Heugh 1931 Sub-Group Level
All Other 551 329/2 Skara Brae Sub-Group Level

People and Organisations