Roman Britain

Roman Britain's Economy

OCR specification

  • Created by: Kate
  • Created on: 19-04-10 14:51


The Romans were reponsible for the invention of a British economy, gearing their industries towards better productivity and effectiveness.

Before and during the Roman occupation agriculture was the main focus of the Brtish economy.

Lastly the role of the army and the governance of the province was largely responsible for the growth of the economy.

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The native Britons had an early form of coinage which has been found mostly in the south east of England and was becoming more widespread towards the end of the 2nd century BC.

The Romans introducted common coinage across the province which made it easier for the Britons to trade on both a local and wider scale. The types of coin are detailed below.

aureus - (gold), denarius - (silver), sestertius - (brass), dupondius - (brass), as - (copper), semi - (brass), squadrans - (copper)

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The main exports of Britain include: grain, iron, cattle, hides, gold, silver, slaves and hunting dogs.

Most mining was under the control of the emperor such as the tin in the southwest and silver mixed with lead in Somerset.

Roman quarries have also been found along hadrian's wall suggesting that they also quarried stone. This probably would never have made it out of the province because of building demands and population growth.

Popular item such as the Birrus Britannicus, a hooded cloak were exported across the empire.

The Romans also intergrated certain goods into British agriculture and trade. For example the implementation of the scythe and various vegetables and livestock.

Pottery production, glass, tiles and metalwork all sprang up across Britain aided by the developement of new types of kiln.

The largest imports of Roman Britain were fish sauce from southern Spain, wine from Spain and other 'luxury' items.

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Villas and Agriculture

Manufactured goods did increase but Britain remained primarily an agricultural province.

The arrival of a large army and the beginnings of urbanisation meant that agriculture had to develop in order to sustain a larger population. Transportation became key. The placement of settlements along main roads meant that the urban areas could recieve grain from surrounding villas.

Granaries enabled the transported supplies to last for longer which was especially important along military frontiers such as Hadrian's wall.

Villa estates were large farmsteads that fuelled the need for timber and food. Additions were made to traditional implements like the plough so that these larger estates could produce higher yields. The success of this farming is evident in the wealth displayed at villas and their developement over the years. For example; Chedworth Roman villa which was transformed into a villa with multiple wings, decorative mosiacs and bath houses.

Retired soliders were given land in the province after their terms of service. This led to the increase of private farms that catered or the local markets.

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Principle roads were made by soilders as their control of the province increased. Troops and supplies were ferried along roads like the fosse way and they also became popular trade routes.

Old celtic roads such as the Ridgeway in central England were of lower quality than the straight, Roman counterparts. With the aid of carts movement across Britain became quicker and easier.

Some key roads include Walting street, that housed the flourishing pottery industy in the 1st century AD. Religious sites like Aquae Sulis are also found along Roman roads.

This infastructure meant that produce could be taken to ports, local markets and to military settlements with relative ease.

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Town Centres

These settlements required supplies from the surrounding countryside.

Permanent market structures (a macellum) have been found at St Albans and at Wroxeter. Markets stalls would have been present in the fora and shops were situated in urban centres too.

Towns offered a market for those wanting to sell goods and the opportunity for people to view things imported from throughout the empire.

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Taxation was implemented to support the administrative infastructure and the military.

The regulation of this system was likely to be set up by a governor such as Trebellius Maximus. Since he is not attributed with any military or legal training his area of expertise must have laid elsewhere - the economy.

After the division of Britain into four provinces taxes were not collected as coinage. Instead produce or manufactured goods were accepted and tailored spectifically to the needs of the army.

Officials would decide what was needed and assess the capabilities of various groups in order to decide how much should be paid.

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After the rebellion of Constantine the 3rd the Romans left Britain in 410AD

This freed the natives from imperial taxation but also left them without the legal or administrative system they had come to rely on.

By this time most people were Roman citizens due to the Constitutio Antoniniana in 212AD that had granted citizenship to the entire empire. The collapse of the empire led to the hiding of family treasures such as the Hoxne Treasure that was buried after 407AD and suggests a wealthy familiy's anxiety over the economic situation.

This self protection suggests that metal was becoming more valued that coin and that people were loosing confidence in the currency.

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Just need more examples!!!

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