School of Geography
 

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Robert Frost

PHD Researcher,

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Research Summary

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… read more

Current Research

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.

Past Research

To an extent, I am building on my undergraduate dissertation (which I carried out for my undergraduate degree in the School of Geography). This focused on British travelers to Egypt in the nineteenth century, though was more closely aligned with tourism than contributions by Egyptologists.

School of Geography

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