Recovering Roman Britain: researches and readings

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Archaeology


My project involved the completion of the writing of a book entitled 'Recovering Roman Britain, researches and readings'. This work is to be published by Oxford University Press during the next year. After discussion with the publishers, the title has been revised to 'The Rediscovery of Roman Britain; A Colony so fertile'.

This book explores the impact of classical texts and material culture on perceptions of the immediately pre-Roman and Roman past of Britain. It forms part of an increasingly cross-disciplinary focus on the imperial context of studies of the British past. Each age has interpreted the Roman Empire in ways that relate to current interests & concerns. One dominant idea, which remains significant today, is that the Romans brought Mediterranean culture 'civilization' to 'barbarian' people in northern Europe, including Britain. This imported culture is felt to have included, on one hand, imposed peace, order, urban life, organised bathing and Christianity and, on the other, despotism, enslavement and cultural domination. Ideas derived from these contrasting perspectives have long proved fundamental in the ways that the mythical origins of the people of 'Western' nations and their cultures, including the people of Britain, have been imagined and interpreted (see articles in R. Hingley [ed.] 2001 Images of Rome). Such ideas have been used to express contrasting pictures of the inherent freedom of native peoples (Picts, Celts, etc) or the order and 'civilization' brought to Britain by Rome. At various times, different aspects of the past have been stressed. For example, under Elizabeth I and James I, Roman Britain was projected as an ancestral source for national identity, imagined through the former unity of the province of Britannia; during the C19, Roman Britain provided a source of ideas for the military control and assimilation of territories overseas; today people adopt ideas such as 'What the Romans did for us'. In my new book, the works of antiquarians and archaeologists - including William Camden, William Roy, Samuel Lysons and Francis Haverfeld - are studied through a thematic framework which explores the idea that Roman contact and conquest brought civility (civilized behaviour / ordered government) to the lowland Britons, while excluding the 'barbarian' populations of northern and western Britain from the benefits of colonial control. An opposing tradition is also explored, that the peripheralized populations actively and valiantly resisted Roman control and the consequential introduction of servility.

The book also addressed the ways that transforming knowledge of the ancient and classical past of Britain was used as the foundation for a civilizing discourse in the conquest and control of Ireland, Scotland, North America and India, drawing on the former colonial status of Britain to justify the control of territories in Britain and overseas. Ideas about civility Romanization and the purpose and nature of the frontiers, forts, villas and Roman cities are studied from this perspective. Changes you will be logged out automatically after twenty minutes of system inactivity. Typing in a text box is not detectable


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Description This Research Fellowship enabled the completion of my book, 'The Recovery of Roman Britain'. This provides a summary of the impact of the discovery of Roman culture in Britain from William Camden (late C16) to Francis Haverfield (early C20). Chapters consider ideas about: (a) the introduction of civility to the British by the Romans, (b) the Walling out of civility to the north of Hadrian's Wall through the construction of the two Roman Walls (Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall), (c) the rise of apporaches to 'Romanisation'.
Exploitation Route The book and article are aimed at academics, but the text of the former is fairly accessible and, like my previous books, I am sure that it is being used by interested members of the public. I have lectured to groups including members of the public on topics taken from the book on three occasions (Bath, London and Cardiff).
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

Description The book has been quite widely drawn upon within archaeological studies, as indicated by the range of reviews in a variety of publications. I have recieved a number of invitations to present lectures and write articles as a result.
First Year Of Impact 2009
Sector Education,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural