As I often do, I skipped the preface to this book and went straight into the main text. Because of that, it was only about half way through that I realised Neil Faulkner was a Marxist – all the references to class war finally started to make sense.
In this book, actually charting the whole history of the Romans in Britain, this approach has advantages and disadvantages. Roman society was undeniably full of inequality and, in an otherwise dry book, Faulkner does succeed in bringing that to life. His descriptions of the settlements, showing the disparity in wealth, are bolstered by plenty of archaeological evidence. His explanation of the effects of Diocletian’s economic reforms is much more vivid that I’d thought the history of taxation could be.
On the downside, his conclusion, that the end of Roman Britain would let a peasant revolt kick out the landlords and live a brief but ideal agrarian society before the Saxon warlords moved in, comes across as far fetched and lacking any real basis to back it up. His descriptions of the Roman empire outside of Britain are short and one-sided, mostly existing to show either Britain’s role in the empire or the inequality in the system.
I’m not as well read on Roman Britain as I should be, but this stands as an interesting if occasionally uneven take on that particular fringe of the Empire. Worth reading, but perhaps best balanced with an alternative point of view.