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Boudica: The British Revolt Against Rome AD 60

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Boudica: The British Revolt Against Rome, AD 60
By Graham Webster. (London & New York: Routledge, 2000. Pp. 152. Illustrations, Maps, and Diagrams.) ISBN 0-415-22606-6.

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - February 1, 2001

Boudica, Queen of the Iceni, "...suffered the indignity of being stripped and lashed like a common criminal, and her daughters, as spoils of war, were raped by all and sundry." (pg. 88.) In retaliation for the brutal treatment meted out to her, and her family, at the hand's of the Roman's, Boudica raised an army and attacked the Roman forces in Britain. Boudica's armies fought ferociously, slaughtering all who stood in their way.

The warriors that fought for Boudica did so for many reasons. In addition to the Iceni anger at the treatment of their queen at the hand's of the Roman's, one of the main causes of the revolt was the Roman attack on the Druids at Anglesey. As well, many held a long-standing animosity against the Roman's that traced its origin back to the invasion of Britain in AD 43. During the revolt, Boudica's army sacked the towns of Camulodunum, London, and Verulaminum, killing, according to Tacitus, 80,000 Roman citizens and British sympathizers. (pg. 96). Although out armed, the Britons almost succeeded in driving the Roman's out of Britain. In the end, however, they succumbed to the might of Rome.

In Boudica: The British Revolt Against Rome AD 60, Graham Webster explores the event leading up to the revolt, their causes, and the repercussions which followed the revolt. Webster is a renowned archaeologist who specializes in Roman Britain, and he brings the full force of his expertise to bear in this book. From the title, you may get the impression that this book is a biography of Boudica - it is not. Rather, this is a book that explores the archaeological and literary evidence that has provided the information upon which our knowledge of the revolt, and Boudica, has been derived.

Coming on the heels of The Roman Invasion of Britian and The Battle Against Caratacus, Boudica completes Webster's trilogy on the Roman Conquest of Britain. Throughout this book, Webster has taken pains to explain how archaeological evidence is gathered and interpreted. In addition, he shows how archaeology is not a static science. New information and new finds are constantly adding to our knowledge of Roman Britain, filling in the many missing pieces of the historical record. At times, this new information confirms previous assumptions, at other times it shatters them.

One of the most interesting aspects of this book is Webster's explanation explaining that much of our knowledge about Britain during the Roman period has been derived almost entirely from archeological evidence. For instance, many of the names of local rulers are only known due to the discovery of coins with their names on them.

Aside from the compelling narrative on the British revolt, and Boudica's role, Webster also exposes the reader to the current archaeological endeavors being undertaken in England, as well as providing a historical overview of past archeological projects that have delved into the Roman period. Most important, Webster clearly explains the problems inherent in attempting to do archeological research in areas, such as London, where much of the area has been heavily built upon. This is in addition to the difficulites that arise when commercial interests impede the ability of archaeologists to make a complete study of a site. This is a common occurance when a site is uncovered due to construction.

Boudica is a splendid book. It is written in an engaging style that allows you to step back into time and actually 'see' history in the making. Boudica also provides ample fodder for anyone interested in archaeology, military studies, Ancient Britain, the Druids (the Druidic tradition was virtually destroyed by the Roman's during the revolt), or Roman History. You do not need any specialized knowledge in order to appreciate this book. For those seeking more information on Boudica or the revolt, the book includes a short bibliography.

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