Thursday, 26 September 2013

Balance of Payments problems in Roman Britain - the cause of imperial collapse?

Chapter 4
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

Buy your copy at a bookshop or Amazon


As the UK talks of cuts and austerity, this book explores for beginners the true scale of our financial problems, and some of the controversies behind modern spending. Warning: do not read if you suffer from high blood pressure, or lack a sense of humour in a crisis. Among the questions answered are: What is the difference between Deficit and Debt? How much does the United Kingdom Government really owe? Who is Scotland's forgotten debt genius? How big could you build a new Hadrian's Wall from Pound coins paid out of Britain's debt? Why was Britain's first civil war two thousand years ago triggered by debt repayments? How did WW2 US airmen unexpectedly help bail out Britain's war effort? What was the Geddes Axe, and how far did it swing? What can a wombat's posterior warn us of? How big is our creek today and is there a paddle? Launched to coincide with the Coalition Government's "make or break" 2013 Budget, this book puts the country's financial problems firmly under the microscope. It explains what is going on and why in terms the layman can understand - and will find absolutely terrifying. Possibly the most important book about government you will ever read.

No comments:

Post a comment