King Arthur the Right Bastard
Our sub title above is both cruel and somewhat exaggerated, but historians have been revising their view of Dark Age Britain and come up with some interesting ideas as to why the Britons became the Welsh and stuck in Wales (and the Cornish in Cornwall), rather than roaming most of the rest of this island.
In short, it may be down in no small part to money.
The British economy for centuries depended heavily on what amounted to civil service pay. Britain was celebrated for its hunting dogs, but you can’t run an economy off Crufts. It also had an ancient tin industry, less important now as the Bronze Age had long gone. People weren’t so desperately looking for that magic ingredient to mix with their copper to make their weapons of war and items of power and wealth. There was grain, and that was always in demand in the urban centres of the Mediterranean, though it was rather a distance to get it there.
So while trade did take place, and goods were being imported such as fine Samian ware from Gaul, a key component was imperial pay. Britain for much of its existence was an important military centre. With a defended land frontier in the North and a coastline exposed to the East and West to potential (and often, actual) raiders, at its height the island hosted three legions. On top of this there was the civil administration, with the number of local provincial capitals varying as the regional boundaries shifted over time, and each of these regional capitals had civil servants and a governor’s administrative staff that needed paying. Britain’s currency seems to have predominantly been imported on the back of these salaries, giving the province an early experience of trade deficits.
In the fifth century, direct imperial rule collapsed. In the absence of large amounts of historical data, there are different thoughts on what happened over the next hundred and fifty years, beyond the increasing appearance of Germanic settlements across the country, as the Roman way of life slowly disappears. One remarkable series of studies by Dr John Morris postulated that the celebrated Arthur character emerges to subdue the Angles and Saxons after an early revolt, but that a second rebellion a couple of generations later overturns the initial Romano-British hegemony and sets the scene for a gradual decline as a new wave of settlement from North Germany and Denmark follows.
from "A Fate Worse than Debt" by Dr Lee Rotherham
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