Cross channel relations: Kent and the Gallic coast in the Roman period


  • Philip Smither (University of Kent)

The body of water now known as the English Channel has been crossed by people for millennia. It can be perceived as a bridge facilitating trade and cultural exchange, as well as a barrier that required defending. Kent, being the closest point of contact to the continent, received much of this exchange during the Roman period as a point of entry and exit. Even since the Late Iron Age, Kent’s connection with the Roman Empire was different and closer with the continent than the rest of Britain.

The modern county of Kent has been widely excavated and surveyed, but there is little synthesis bringing together this evidence. Millet (2007) was the last to provide an overview of Kent during the Roman period which went beyond past attempts which focused on urban settlement. However, more research and discussion is needed on the activities that connected the north coast of Gaul with those on the south-east coast of Britannia.

This session will look at this relationship through various theoretical perspectives including, but not limited to, landscape, identity and frontiers and ask questions such as:

• Who connected the settlements of Kent and Gaul?
• How did the Roman Empire exploit the Kentish landscape?
• Who were the facilitators of relationships at the coastal ports?
• How did these connections change and mould the fabric of Kent’s landscape and population?

These questions have a variety of answers, depending on our perception of English channel through time; as bridge or barrier?

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