Clash of Cultures? The Romano-British period in the West Midlands

Roger White (Editor), Michael Hodder (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This volume is the first comprehensive overview of the Roman period in the west midlands region. In modern terms , it covers the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands County, stretching from the Peak District to the Cotswolds north to south and from Wales to central England south of the Pennines. This is a diverse region geographically, geologically and in terms of modern land use, including as it does the cities of Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton as well as areas of outstanding natural beauty. This diversity was the case too in the Roman period when it is thought that this area was divided between three different peoples as recognised by the Roman authorities: The Cornovii in the north and west, the Dobunni in the south and the Corieltauvi to the north and east. In all three cases, no complete tribal area is included. Instead, the west midlands region captures where these three people met.
Studying such an area poses challenges, therefore, both in terms of modern pressures from development but also in how we understand the Roman use of this landscape. As the papers in this volume show, the underlying characteristics of the region led to very different responses to Rome manifest in the differing acceptance and degree of Roman culture adopted by its people.
The general perception of the west midlands region is that it was a backwater compared to the frontier zone of the north defined by the walls of Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, or the south of Britain where Roman culture took root early – in cities like Colchester, London and St Albans – and lingered late at cities like Cirencester and Bath with their rich, late Roman villa culture. The west midlands region captures the transition between these two areas of the ‘military’ north and ‘civilised’ south. Where it differed, and why, are important questions in understanding the regional diversity of Roman Britain. Was the difference caused by the varied basis of the economies of the region, or was it to do with social diversity and underlying native social structures? The region is important too for the beginning and end of Roman Britain. At the time of the invasion, the area only had minimal contact with Roman people and culture: the changes wrought by the invasion and conquest are highly visible and stark in the form of a network of Roman military sites controlling the region. How the population reacted to such change is an important issue. Equally, when the hold of Roman loosened, the region became the front line between the incoming Anglo-Saxon peoples and their culture, and the emerging British / Welsh society which gradually replaced the Romano-British culture. What are the archaeological traces of this transition, and how can we detect them?
These questions are addressed by the chapters in this volume which detail the archaeology of the Roman period for each of the modern counties, written by local experts who are or have been responsible for the management and exploration of their respective counties. These are placed alongside more thematic takes on elements of Roman culture, including the Roman Army, pottery, coins and religion. Lastly, an overview is taken of the important transitional period of the fifth and sixth centuries when one culture gradually made way for another. Each paper provides both a developed review of the existing state of knowledge and understanding of the key characteristics of the subject area and details a set of research objectives for the future, immediate and long-term, that will contribute to our evolving understanding of Roman Britain.
Of value to all who manage and research the archaeological heritage of the region, this is the third volume in a series – The Making of the West Midlands – that explores the archaeology of the English west midlands region from the Lower Palaeolithic onwards. The papers are also written for those with a general interest in the region who want to know more about the 400 years when the west midlands was a part of Rome’s multicultural Empire.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
Commissioning bodyHistoric England
Number of pages224
ISBN (Print)9781785709227
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2018

Publication series

NameThe Making of the West Midlands
PublisherHistoric England


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