Institute of Archaeology


Clare Lewis

Developing Disciplinary Knowledge: Inaugural Lectures in Egyptology


Email: clare.lewis.13@ucl.ac.uk
Section: Heritage Studies



Developing Disciplinary Knowledge: Inaugural Lectures in Egyptology

This research examines the development of British Egyptology, its self-positioning, contingencies, and its perception and positioning by others from its formal inception in British academia (1892) to the present day. Influenced by the methods of history of science, the study positions itself in the middle ground of historiography - between the history of ideas and the histories of people and institutions - through the selection of inaugural lectures as paradigms/ cluster points with which to organise the enquiry.


Whilst inaugural lectures are often overlooked as academic ephemera, they mark an unusual public event where a dominant individual can both publicly review the state of a subject and outline their aspirations to the subject's various stakeholders: fellow academics, sponsors, the public, friends and a broader academic cohort. Furthermore their publication (or not) allows one to examine some of the shifting communication strategies used within the subject. The overarching purpose of this research is therefore to demonstrate their value as a historiographical tool, locating the public presentation of academic output within its social and institutional setting.


The data focus is on the Egyptological inaugural lectures (EILs) from the three British pre-Second World War Chairs (London, Oxford and Liverpool). The research aims to examine how the cumulative tradition of learning developed and how the knowledge that constitutes the western academic construct of Egyptology has been institutionalised, curated, transmitted and ultimately criticised within one of the organisational groupings that were responsible for its nineteenth century western creation - the university (as distinct from the museum, the academy and the learned society).


Whilst acknowledging that this heuristic anchor risks distorting, or preventing, wider coverage of the subject under study, EILs can present valuable opportunities for understanding the contingencies at any one point in time and can therefore provide a more nuanced view as to the trajectory of a subject.


    • M.Eng (Engineering, Economics and Management) Oxford University, 1993
    • MA (Egyptology) London, 2012

    Peet , the JEA and the First World War', Egypt Exploration Society Newsletter, Summer/Autum 2014.

    'Review of Wonderful Things: A History of Egyptology 2: The Golden Age 1881-1914', Papers in Archaeology, 2016

    'Inaugural Lectures in Egyptology: T.E. Peet and His Pupil W.B. Emery', Bulletin of the History of Archaeology, 2016

    Conference papers

    Seminar: Oriental Studies Faculty, Oxford, 11/2/15, 'Developing Disciplinary Knowledge: Inaugural Lectures in Egyptology'.

    Workshop: Performance and Display in Archaeology, UCL, 24/1/15, 'Developing Disciplinary Knowledge: Inaugural Lectures in Egyptology, The Case of W.B. Emery'

    Conference: History of Archaeology Research Network, Glasgow 1/9/15, 'Egyptological Inaugural Lectures: T.E. Peet and His Pupil W.B. Emery'.