Future research on modern landscapes should take a critical approach to landscape: questioning and exploring the concept and ‘landscape’ and, reflecting upon the methods through which landscapes are investigated and working towards new histories of the modern landscape which help towards an understanding of how people have related to their world, how they have been formed as subjects in so doing and why this is relevant to engagement with landscape today.
- Conceptualise and research landscapes in relational terms. The historic material characteristics of the land – whether relict archaeological features or historic features still in use today – are one aspect of landscape. Landscapes cannot be reduced to those physical features and need to be understood as social, material and ecological relationships. It is those relationships that research should seek to understand, adopting a reflexive approach and studying how people affected and formed the world around them but also how they were formed in their interactions with that world.
- Evidence the multiple nature of modern landscapes. The same area can be experienced as multiple landscapes, because landscape is formed of the particular relationships between different people and between people and the world. Landscapes of Improvement, industrial landscapes, designed landscapes or other landscapes cannot be explained in a singular way, as they would have been known and lived in different ways by different people.
- Investigate the full sweep of landscape types, across all periods of the modern past. There has been a heavy bias in the archaeology of modern Scotland towards farming landscapes, especially those of the 18th and 19th centuries. Certain kinds of industrial landscapes and other categories such as battlefields have also seen significant attention. However, to fully understand the past lives of the modern period, in terms of their landscape relationships, due attention should be given to the variety of landscapes forming rural, urban, coastal and marine Scotland. There should also be greater symmetry in the treatment of landscapes from different periods in the modern past: the history of the modern landscape runs from the end of the Middle Ages through to the present and includes landscapes whose character is strongly influenced by thier most recent history and landscapes whose character speaks strongly of the centuries before.
- Develop and adopt integrated and integrative modes of practice. Adopting landscape as the subject of enquiry requires us to transcend the established sectoral divisions of industrial archaeology, battlefield archaeology, rural settlement studies and so on. Landscapes defy those separations and need to be understood in the round. Equally important as an integrated approach within archaeology is an integrative approach to disciplinary collaboration: the complex relationships forming modern landscapes are best understood by meaningfully working across disciplinary borders.
- Connect past and present in terms of their landscape relationships. Research should work towards landscape histories which make sense of and throw critical light on present-day relationships between people, the material world and the environment. Archaeologies of the modern landscape can explore the origins and dynamic histories, the time-depth and the beneficial and pernicious character of past landscape developments and, in so doing, can provide a much-needed historical perspective on landscape relationships in the present. How did things come to be as they are now? What are the legacies of past landscape relationships, in social, political, material and environmental terms?
In all of the above, the over-arching aim should be to provide a deep perspective on modern life by revealing, evidencing and interpreting the recent history of landscapes, understood as relationships between people, other living things and the physical world.