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THERE GO ALL THE 'FACTS' I THOUGHT I KNEW
on 22 September 2013
I first ordered this book from Amazon in November 2012, it arrived two weeks ago. Was the wait worthwhile? Well....
This book is an analytical examination of what we think we know and what we actually know (practically nothing) about the Roman invasions of Britain and there aftermath. It covers the ground from Caesar to the late forth century. Some periods, mostly early, in a great deal of detail others are skipped over with either little or no mention because we have neither written source or archaeological one a point the author makes plain in the text.
Caesar's invasion in particular is well dissected and discussed with no good results for those who think facts are fixed with regard to landing sites. The Claudian invasions is also discussed and analysed in considerable detail. I think the point re a North Sea approach is very well made.
Where possible the author examines the written sources and tries to link them with archaeological findings. As far as I am able to tell the archaeology discussed is as up to date as one would expect bearing in mind this is a book. It's a very impressive list of sources and digs that Ms Hoffmann seems to be familiar with.
To cut to the chase, the point Ms Hoffmann makes, and makes exceedingly well in this writers opinion, is that we actually know very little, facts are few and far between, with regard to Roman Britain, and that those interested in the period should be aware that the best one is going to get in most cases re `facts' is several different scenarios to work with, any one of which might be the `truth'. I was surprised on more than one occasion that things I had read of in other books as certainties were nothing of the sort or at least the data was ambiguous and any one of several different options might be the correct one.
It's a well written book (although there are one or two sentences which make no grammatical sense but they only cause a moments pause) with a fair number black and white photographs of reasonable quality and several line drawn maps and diagrams. Some 217 pages long in an easy to read type that has certainly affected my viewpoint of Romano-British history. It's a fascinating read and no mistake, though it occasionally dips into the negative, a point the author acknowledges. It's never less than interesting however.
Was it worth the wait, yes it was, I really enjoyed this book and , thankfully, it's also that rare book that one knows they can go back to time and time again and each time learn a little more. Thank you very much Ms Hoffmann for a tour de force.