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date: 24 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter reviews the relationship between power and economics in fourth-century Britain. It argues that the Roman past has often been intuitively understood as rational and that its economics can be easily characterized as ‘proto-capitalist’. The Roman period was, however, both complex and irrational. Agricultural production was the powerhouse of the economy and provided the foundations of both power and status during the late Roman period. The focus on the agricultural economy allows the structures of power – tax, tribute and surplus extraction – and their transformation to be studied. During the fifth century the imperial superstructure collapsed, but the continued local control of agricultural resources provides a mechanism for how the late Roman world was transformed into early medieval societies.

Keywords: Late Roman Britain, power, status, economics, villas, countryside

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