School of History, Classics and Archaeology


The Economy of the Roman Empire: Material Perspectives

The nature of the Roman economy defies simple explanation because neither the documentary evidence analysed by historians nor the material evidence investigated by archaeologists survives in sufficient quantities to resolve fundamental questions.

My book The Archaeology of the Roman Economy integrated a number of sources of evidence and emphasised the significant role of material evidence, but economic history and archaeology have both moved on since its publication in 1986.

I believe that more information can be extracted by taking a broader approach to the complexity of material culture. It has long been assumed that artefacts and other physical evidence passively reflect economic history, and provide proxy evidence for its undocumented aspects.

However, approaches to material culture employed by prehistorians, anthropologists and modern-world cultural historians emphasise its active role in everyday life. The incorporation of such approaches will provide new understanding of the consumption of artefacts in the Roman world. My research also considers the comparative importance of technology in the Roman economy.