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New Research Agenda Sets Out Our Stall

The agenda provides a goldmine of ideas for university-based and other researchers seeking to deliver research projects with real-world impact for the heritage sector.

We have reissued our Historic England Research Agenda. The new publication replaces the English Heritage Research Agenda 2005-2010, and SHAPE 2008. It sits alongside our Research Strategy, developed in 2016 as part of our successful bid to become an Independent Research Organisation.

A market scene in Birmingham with a mixture of old and new building styles in the background.
Heritage contributes to the rich sense of local identity. Research deepens that link. Rag Market, Birmingham © Historic England DP195111

Historic England research themes and topics

The Research Strategy defined nine broad Themes that describe our research interests:


The Research Agenda expands the Themes to include thirty-nine specific Research Topics. Each Research Topic briefly sets out the importance of the topic, identifies the variety of ways in which research in this topic could benefit the historic environment and broader  society. It sets out our stall, and offers a list of research questions to guide those looking to do research in this field.

For example:

  • How are hidden histories within society reflected in the historic environment?
  • What new technologies can be deployed to unlock access to our historic environment and how can they best be brought to bear?
  •  How can we maximise the use of survey and prospection data collected for renewable energy, aggregates and fishery projects to help us better understand our marine heritage?

A group of people cleaning an archaeological find of timbers on a foreshore.
Much remains to be discovered. Research makes new discoveries and assesses their significance. Preserved Bronze Age timbers on the foreshore at Mersea, Essex. © Historic England

Make a difference

The research undertaken, commissioned and supported by Historic England is ‘applied research’, with outcomes relevant to current real-world situations. To help guide the development of projects and partnerships, our Research Agenda also lists types of research outcomes that we regard as delivering particular beneficial impact. These outcomes will support the national, strategic mission of Historic England, set out in our Corporate Plan, and assist the wider heritage sector. Put simply, they are research that will make a difference.

The Research Agenda will be kept under review by Historic England. Please see our website for updates.

Please see our website for further details of collaborative research opportunities with universities, and funding for research projects.

Research Agenda diagram
The scope of our Research Agenda extends beyond what we can do ourselves, and encourages partnership with others. © Historic England

About the author

Edmund Lee

Edmund Lee

Knowledge Transfer Manager

Edmund leads a team with responsibility for research partnerships with higher education, research agendas and digital research information and written guidance.

Sarah Reilly

Sarah Reilly

Communities Analyst, Strategic Research and Partnerships team, Historic England

Sarah is an experienced historic evironment professional and has worked in a number of roles for Historic England and its predecessors including: field archaeology, local government liaison, historic environment intelligence and more recently research partnerships.

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