University of Leicester
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Architecture, economics, and identity in Romano-British 'small towns'

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:42 authored by Thomas C. Rust
An area overlooked in recent research is the meaning of architecture in the ill-defined category of sites known as small towns. Using the social psychology approaches of identity theory, social identity theory, and operant conditioning, this study examines the impact of Roman imperialism and the socio-economic changes that occurred on the island as reflected in the choice of architecture. Focusing on small towns is problematic due to difficulties with definition and site categorization. However, as settlements that were more complex than simple villages but more organic than the larger cities, they provide an opportunity to measure the socio-economic impact of Roman imperialism in the rural countryside. This thesis examines the meaning of architectural variation in small towns by investigating the shifting use of construction techniques and building types in comparison with personal artifacts. Data was collected from published site reports and entered into a simple geo-spatial database where broad trends were analyzed to reveal general patterns over space and time. Detailed case studies were then examined from sites that showed some shared characteristics in this initial analysis. Different patterns became evident that were not solely attributable to site type, size, economics, or local geology and reveal the negotiation of personal identity in the context of Roman imperialism. As a supplementary example, architectural variation on the better documented American frontier provided a comparison for socio-economic change on the Roman frontier. The choice of architecture styles by the inhabitants of Romano-British small towns had different meanings given the unique set of economic and social forces they encountered. The inhabitants of these sites negotiated their personal identities in relation to the civic identities of the settlement in which they lived and were affected by economic, social, and imperial forces.


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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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