My expertise is in place-names in general, with particular focus on their potential as tools for understanding past landscapes and Anglo-Saxon society and culture.
I am co-editor of the journal Nomina.
Outreach and Public Engagement
Over the last few years, I have regularly been involved as an organizer of or contributor to public and community events and day-schools. In recent years I have given talks to the following societies and networks:
Community Landscape and Archaeology Survey Project AGM, Paulerspury, Northamptonshire (15 September 2010);
Kent Archaeological Society, Rochester (6 November 2010);
Cambridge Antiquarian Society, Cambridge (6 December 2010);
Thing Sites International Networking Group, Orkney (17 April 2010, in absentia);
CBA South Midlands spring conference, Northampton (9 April 2011);
Leicestershire Museums Archaeology Fieldwork Group, Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester (19 January 2012);
Midland Viking Symposium, University of Leicester (28 April 2012);
Welwyn Archaeological Society Conference, Welwyn Garden City (14 July 2012);
St Neots Local History Society (1 March 2013);
Norton Community Archaeology (13 March 2013).
I have also organized and participated in a number of public courses and day-schools:
Bedford Retirement Education Centre, 21 September to 23 November 2009;
Rewley House, Oxford (26 March 2011), speaker only;
Moot and Hundred Meeting-Places day-school, Institute of Continuing Education, Madingley Hall, Cambridge (10 April 2011);
English Place-Names: Landscape and Society weekend school, Institute of Continuing Education, Madingley Hall, Cambridge (2-4 December 2011);
Thinking about Things day-school for the Wuffing Education programme, Sutton Hoo (10 December 2011);
Landscapes of Violence day-school for the Wuffing Education programme, Sutton Hoo (20 April 2013).
BBC Radio 4, Open Country, 9.4.11: interview about the Landscapes of Governance project
BBC Radio Nottingham, Mark Dennison show, 14.4.11: interview about the Landscapes of Governance project
BBC Radio Stoke, Lee Thomas show, 6.6.12: interviewed about place-names
BBC Radio Leicester, Talking History, 8.7.12: interviewed about Leicestershire place-names
The Beyond the Burghal Hidage project, with which I was involved between 2005 and 2008 was featured in BBC History Magazine, January 2009.
I contributed to a planning and advisory meeting for BBC Learning (National team), in preparation for educational events and activities connected with the series The Great British Story (20.10.11), and participated in the BBC Learning, East Midlands: Appleby Magna roadshow (8.7.12), giving a talk on place-names and assembly-sites in the east midlands and helping to design a local place-name walk for members of the public.
The Landscapes of Governance project (2009-12) was assisted by more than 30 volunteers, including individuals and local research groups such as Community Landscape and Archaeology Survey Project (CLASP) in Northamptonshire, Wiltshire Archaeology and Natural History Society, and the Friends of Thynghowe, in Nottinghamshire. Our work with the Friends of Thynghowe attracted the attention of the Guardian online 'The Northerner Blog' (12.4.11) (although I am not, as stated, a sound engineer!): http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/the-northerner/2011/apr/12/boulby-polyhalite-cleveland-potash-krebs-dark-matter-otley-kate-middleton-thynghowe
My teaching focuses on name-studies and medieval languages and history.
Undergraduate modules taught
I contribute to The Viking World and Beginnings of English core modules at first-year level, and the third-year English Place-Names module.
Postgraduate modules taught
At MA level I contribute to the Study of Place-Names module, convening it in 2015/16.
I welcome students interested in any aspect of place-name study or hoping to use place-name evidence effectively as part of an interdisciplinary methodology.
Since January 2013 I have been working on the Place-Names of Shropshire, a four-year project funded by the AHRC and involving colleagues at the Institute for Name-Studies and the University of Wales.… read more
JOHN BAKER, 2017. Old English sǣte and the historical significance of 'folk'-names Early Medieval Europe. 25(4), 417-442
JOHN BAKER and STUART BROOKES, 2017. Gateways, gates and gatu: liminal spaces at the centre of things. In: S. SEMPLE, C. ORSINI and S. MUI, eds., Life on the Edge: Social, Religious and Political Frontiers in Early Medieval Europe Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum with the Internationales Sachsensymposion. 253-262
JOHN BAKER and STUART BROOKES, 2016. Explaining Anglo-Saxon military efficiency: the landscape of mobilization Anglo-Saxon England. 44, 9 (In Press.)
Since January 2013 I have been working on the Place-Names of Shropshire, a four-year project funded by the AHRC and involving colleagues at the Institute for Name-Studies and the University of Wales. The project will bring to completion the English Place-Name Society county survey of Shropshire, begun by the late Margaret Gelling in the 1960s, with the publication of the final four volumes.
My principal area of research is in place-names, and I have published work on etymology and on the wider significance of names for our understanding of the evolution of the landscape. I am especially interested in early medieval society and culture, the ways in which the evidence of place-names can contribute to their study, and the potential for a rigorous onomastic approach to inform and clarify interpretations, supplementing and testing the evidence of other disciplines such as archaeology and history. Much of my work therefore explores ways of bringing together and comparing data from different disciplines and examines the limits and possibilities of interdisciplinary methodologies.
My early publications made particular use of archaeological and onomastic evidence to throw light on the early post-Roman period in Britain and the identifiable cultural changes, to examine the potential for these forms of data to be used successfully in conjunction, and to test the basis for existing theories on issues such as place-name chronology.
I have been a Research Fellow at the Institute for Name-Studies (INS) since 2005, working on two major projects. From 2005 to 2008 I was RA on the Beyond the Burghal Hidage project, a collaboration between the INS and UCL Institute of Archaeology, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. The aim of this project was to develope a multidisciplinary methodology in order to assess the wider landscape context of Anglo-Saxon civil defensive initiatives.
From 2009 to 2012 I worked on another Leverhulme Trust-funded project, Landscapes of Governance, involving colleagues at the INS, UCL and the University of Winchester. This built on the approach established by Beyond the Burghal Hidage, examining early medieval sites of public judicial assembly across England.