November 8, 2021
I was raised in an Italian family, but I always had a fondness for the British Isles. From a very early age, I was watching television from that region, including my favorites—Doctor Who and The Tomorrow People. I became a fan of Shakespeare as a teenager (yes, seriously!), and I still hope to visit Great Britain and Ireland someday.
Well maybe it was my genes calling me home, because when I became an adult, I discovered that I was nearly 100 percent British (I was adopted as an infant). I have everything: Welsh, Scottish, English, Irish. I also have a smidgeon of some of the invaders of more recent history, like Norwegian and Danish, courtesy of the Vikings and the Danes. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my family’s Italian heritage.
Now, I’m sure there are some people who might be wondering why a person who is so British would bother looking for Italian in her genes. One of the aspects of British history that doesn’t seem to get that much attention is the occupation of the Isles by the Romans just after the turn of the first millennia, starting around 43 AD. Britain would be considered part of the Roman Empire for the next 367 years until problems back home forced the Romans to leave.
Today, many view Britain as a powerful country with a long history of its Kings and Queens forming world-spanning empires. However, long ago, Britain was just a collection of tribes that were seen by the Romans as uncivilized and backwards. People like the Brigantes, Silures, and Iceni (the famous Boudicca’s people) fought hard to resist Roman conquest.
But it was only the tribes of the northern Scottish Highlands, such as the Caledonians, who were able to hold back the conquerors. They were such a thorn in the side of the Romans that they eventually gave up and created Hadrian’s Wall (named after the famed General) to separate the northern part of Britain and Scotland from the rest of the island.
This portion of British history is fascinating to me because it shows how so much of that time was just nonstop invasion by mainland Europeans. It is sad that, except for Boudicca’s rebellion, the Romans’ time in Britain gets much less attention than the Norman and Viking conquests. If you are as interested in this history as I am, MCPL has some wonderful materials you should check out:
- Conquest: The Roman Invasion of Britain by John Peddie
- Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain by Charlotte Higgins
- Roman Britain: A New History by Guy de la Bédoyère
- Boudica: The Life of Britain's Legendary Warrior Queen by Vanessa Collingridge
- Hadrian's Wall by Adrian Keith Goldsworthy