The best books on Roman Britain (by an award-winning historian)

Who am I?

Dr. Simon Elliott is an award-winning and best-selling historian, archaeologist, author, broadcaster, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent, Trustee of the Council for British Archaeology, Ambassador for Museum of London Archaeology, Guide Lecturer for Andante Travels, and President of the Society of Ancients. He frequently appears on broadcast and social media as a presenter and expert regarding the ancient world, and currently has 12 books on sale on similar themes, with three more due later this year. He is also a PR Week award-winning, highly experienced communications practitioner who has advised a wide variety of clients at a senior level on their interaction with the world of the media and politics. 

I wrote...

Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

By Simon Elliott, Simon Elliott,

Book cover of Roman Britain's Missing Legion: What Really Happened to IX Hispana?

What is my book about?

Legio IX Hispana had a long and active history, later in its career founding both Lincoln and York in Britain, from where it guarded the northern frontiers in the Roman province. However, it is last mentioned in history in AD 82 and epigraphy in AD 108, after which it completely disappears. The mystery of its disappearance has inspired debate and imagination for centuries. In his new best-selling work, Dr. Simon Elliott analyses whether it was most likely lost in the north of Britain, in the south here, on the Rhine or Danube, or in the east.

The Books I Picked & Why

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An Imperial Possession

By David Mattingly,

Book cover of An Imperial Possession: Britain in the Roman Empire, 54 BC - AD 409

Why this book?

In my opinion the definative, academic standard account of the Roman occupation of Britain. Professor Mattingly’s book is very well organised, with sections which easily engage the reader on specific aspects of the Roman presence here, for example religion, political organisation, the military, agriculture, and industry. It also explains in great detail the various impacts across Britain of the transition from the Late Iron Age to the Roman period.  

Hadrian's Wall

By Matthew Symonds,

Book cover of Hadrian's Wall: Creating Division

Why this book?

The northern border of Roman Britain came to define much of the occupation in the province, given the far north of the main island of Britain was never fully conquered. This meant the north and west of the province featured an exceptionally large military presence, with the whole local economy there bent on maintaining it. By far the most enigmatic manifestation of this is Hadrian’s Wall, the physical northern frontier for much of the Roman period. In this brand new work, featuring much new research, Matthew Symonds of Current Publishing goes into great detail about the history of the fortification, its purpose, and the impact it has had on British history following Rome’s departure. 

Roman Britain

By Patricia Southern,

Book cover of Roman Britain: A New History 55 BC-AD 450

Why this book?

Many narratives on the history of the Roman presence in Britain focus on the political, economic or social aspects of the story. However, here Patricia Southern focuses particularly on the human experience, giving real insight into the lives of the individuals who lived through the Roman occupation.  

A History of Roman Coinage in Britain

By Sam Moorhead,

Book cover of A History of Roman Coinage in Britain

Why this book?

Numismatics has a huge role to play in helping tell the story of Roman Britain, not only from a chronological perspective, but also because the types and quality of the coinage tells us much about the nature of the province and empire in a given period. Here the British Museum’s Sam Moorhead has written a masterful account of this key aspect of the archaeology of Roman Britain. 

Beyond the Empire

By Andrew Tibbs,

Book cover of Beyond the Empire: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Scotland

Why this book?

As detailed, the far north of Roman Britain was never fully conquered. Therefore it was the location of numerous Roman military campaigns, some of conquest and others to suppress aggression and dissent. Each Roman foray north of the border has left its footprint in the form of archaeology, and here Dr. Andrew Tibbs details each such site to enable the reader to visit and interpret them. Highly recommended.

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