Roman small towns in the East Midlands: A regional study of settlement development and interaction.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:02 by Frances Mary. Condron
The urbanisation programme instigated by the Romans as they conquered the western provinces resulted in a network of chartered towns and numerous slighter settlements, popularly titled 'small towns'. Much research has focussed on the wide range of sites encompassed by the term 'small town'; Burnham's work has provided a framework for analysing these sites, based on settlement morphology and functions. Concentrating on the evidence of small towns alone can answer many questions about appearance, development, functions and complexity, but cannot indicate the audiences at which a wide range of activities was aimed. This thesis concentrates on the small towns of the East Midlands, using existing analytical frameworks to establish a hierarchy, and testing this by exploring the nature and strength of relations with neighbouring settlements. Small towns are placed in their landscape, and evaluated as administrative, regional, local market and service centres. Investigation is carried out in three stages: (i) detailed comparative analysis of the small towns alone; (ii) comparing small town-country relations, selecting a sample area of fixed size around each small town; (iii) assessment of the region as a whole, placing small towns in regional economic, administrative and religious networks. The balance of current academic opinion is that small towns served as local socio-economic centres. However, this thesis shows that few small towns In the East Midlands developed into market centres, the rest being more satisfactorily explained as rural, rather than central, places. Moreover, not all specialist production in some small towns need have been aimed at the locality, but a more distant market. Although many small towns originated as sites of specialist production, or were religious or administrative centres, one cannot assume that their continued existence relied on the evolution of local trade and exchange networks centred upon them.