Why Roman Britain? Why Material Culture? Why Dogs?

Dogsbodies and Dogs’ Bodies: A Social and Cultural History of Roman Britain’s Dogs and People

Professor Robin Fleming

(Professor of Early Medieval History, Boston College)

These lectures explore the social, cultural, and ritual histories of Roman-Britain’s people through an investigation of their entanglements with dogs.  In the highly anthrozootic world of Roman Britain, dogs and humans together shaped mutual ecologies and life-ways.  Dogs also served as metaphorical and ritual agents, and they were central in the production of both social difference and lived religion under Rome.  By following the trail left by dogs, we can recover something of the lifeways and experience of the people with whom they shared the world, and we can identify and characterize some of the mechanisms through which a Roman provincial society was created.

Why Roman Britain? Why Material Culture? Why Dogs?

Aside from a few notable exceptions, the British history written by historians begins not with the Roman period, but with the early Middle Ages.  This lecture poses a series of problems and questions in order to argue that this is a period with which historians should engage, and it suggests methods we might use to write not just the period’s political history, but its social and cultural history as well, by embracing Roman Britain’s more-than-human past.