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An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409 (The Penguin History of Britain) [Paperback]

David Mattingly
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 July 2007 The Penguin History of Britain
Part of the Penguin History of Britain series, An Imperial Possession is the first major narrative history of Roman Britain for a generation. David Mattingly draws on a wealth of new findings and knowledge to cut through the myths and misunderstandings that so commonly surround our beliefs about this period. From the rebellious chiefs and druids who led native British resistance, to the experiences of the Roman military leaders in this remote, dangerous outpost of Europe, this book explores the reality of life in occupied Britain within the context of the shifting fortunes of the Roman Empire.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140148221
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140148220
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


`Exemplary ... from brothel slaves to procurators, then, from the very lowest to the highest, all are here in a magnificent work' -- Spectator

`If you have any interest in Roman Britain, you must buy it' -- British Archaeology

`Mattingly shows ... just how interesting life could be on the outer fringes of the Roman Empire' -- Sunday Telegraph

`What the Romans did to us ... They came, they saw and they definitely conquered. David Mattingly has taken a refreshing look at what that meant for the Britons' -- The Times

From the Publisher

An Imperial Possession is the first in the Penguin History of Britain series.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
This book tells the story of the occupation of Britain by the Romans. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oddly old fashioned text 18 Aug 2009
By Benjamin Girth VINE VOICE
For me there are three elements needed to write a good history book. Intellect: critically the ability to judge what should be left out as much as included. Industry: that the author has worked hard to pull all the material together, analyse and write in a way that engages with the reader. Imagination: someone who takes a position, the courage to make conclusions and let their personality emerge.

Dr Mattingly is an expert with access to the latest sources, so in 540 pages I was hoping he would provide a comprehensive understanding of Roman Britain. I was skim reading half way through, a slog to get to the end. This book is the first of a nine-part Penguin History of Britain. Its predecessor (Ian Richmond's Roman Britain) was in print for 50 years. I have a problem with these collective histories (there is also an eight part Penguin History of Europe). They tend to be formulaic, get it all down and fill the library shelves, chase student sales. Perhaps these are written to a deadline rather than with passion.

Mattingly's real interest appears to be the archaeology of colonialism and if you want an example of his style try "Identity is thus the key analytical tool and I seek to demonstrate the existence of discrepant identities and of discrepant experiences of the Roman Empire in Britain." And we are only on page 18. The liberal application of jargon is pervasive, he lays it on with a trowel and it sounds clever which I guess it is supposed to. I wonder if an archaeologist - which is Mattingly's metier - is best placed to write something as substantial as 463 years of Roman Britain. He opts for three-part analysis, the military, and the civil and rural communities between 54bc to ad409.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars De-Mythologizing Roman Britain 16 Dec 2012
David Mattingly is a Professor of Roman Archaeology at The University of Leicester's School of Archaeology and Ancient History [the same department that has done the recent excavations in Leicester, looking for the bones of Richard III.]

This isn't a traditional book on Roman Britain. Mattingly's thesis is the deconstruction of the myth of the processes of 'Romanization'; that there is no one single Roman identity, arguing instead for regionalization. The author pain-stakingly tackles each region of Britain [and Ireland and Scotland] arguing why elite Roman culture never caught on, as well as material culture [or lack of it], Romano-Celtic religion and trade/market.

It's not as turgid as other reviewers have claimed. If you are genuinely interested in Roman History, and not with the idea of Roman History, then there is much to be enjoyed in this book. Best read alongside Miles Russell's 'Un-Roman Britain.'
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars They Came; they saw; they nicked all our stuff 19 Jun 2010
David Mattingley's book is a bit of a curates egg. On the one hand the 539 densely printed pages of texts and maps do contain not only detailed coverage of the History and archaeology of the roman conquest and occupation of Britain but a thesis of sorts. Far from bringing the benefits of roman knowledge and technology (overplayed by some says Mattingly) they were also ruthless exploiters of Britains natural resources and people. Hence, the Romans didn't convert us dimwits in these islands to suave sophisticated citizens but enslaved us or did deals with local chieftans in return for obeyance. At times this is compelling stuff and the thesis emphasises the regional differences whilst also constantly questioning received views of the period. This is all well and good and there are interesting takes on many aspects of life in these islands; not least that Britain was a particuarly tough country to take over and the size of the Roman garrison was large.
The problem comes with a lack of commitment to produce a decent book; time and time again Mattingley is reduced to describing things that the book doesn't illustrate. Granted there are copious maps and charts but no illustrations at all otherwise or colour plates. There are many other books in the extensive and useful bibliography that might do this but it seems a strange omission when other books in this series do have some photos and pictures. (see Miri Rubin-The Hollow Crown for example).
The writing is sometimes lumpen and dull and he tends to repeat himself as though parts of the book were written at different times without reference to other sections.
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56 of 73 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorry Dr Mattingly 4 Oct 2006
As the author was one of my teachers (brilliant by the way) at university (1997-2000 leicester BSc course) i should be loyal and claim this as a triumph, but its REALLY hard going. While the research is immaculate and its certainly scholarly the language is so obtuse and the line of thought wanders so much you kind of keep wondering what the point is? Individually each chapter has its good points but taken as a whole it strikes me as a bit of a bodge job done piecemeal when other projects allow. Not worthy of the great brain David Mattingly has.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor Kindle edition 15 Oct 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Costs more than the paperback, but has no Table of Contents, illustrations are missing, and lots of the links don't work!
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