Mr Paul Kitching
BA Joint Honours, English and Modern History – University of Liverpool
Deterrence on Rome’s North West frontier: an analysis of the archaeology of Hadrian’s Wall to test deterrence theory against competing hypotheses for its function.
After four centuries of inquiry and the resolution of many of the major questions surrounding Hadrian’s Wall, theories on its function remain controversial. However, given the Wall’s continuing importance in modern discourse, the question of function remains pertinent and is so highlighted in the Frontiers of Knowledge research framework. This research aims to develop a general theory on the Wall’s function as it was originally conceived and introduce a methodology with which to test it against the main theories previously advanced.
The research will examine the Wall through the lens of deterrence theory and compare this to the established defensive, symbolic and control-of-movement interpretations. Although deterrence has come to be viewed as a modern phenomenon, and in some cases almost synonymous with nuclear strategy, it is demonstrably as old as the earliest urban settlements. By examining both the theory and praxis of deterrence in classical antiquity this research seeks to assess the Wall from a new perspective, but one nevertheless rooted in the Roman experience. Rather than a narrow military reading of the Wall’s function, the deterrence hypothesis is offered as a holistic function, incorporating psychological, semiotic, defensive, and offensive elements.
This research will employ structured analytical techniques, using archaeological evidence of the Wall’s form to test the competing hypotheses. This approach allows for both quantitative and qualitative data to be analysed and for the most diagnostic evidence to be identified. Multiple hypotheses testing aims to prevent debate on the Wall’s function stagnating along binary ‘functional vs symbolic’ or ‘military vs economic’ lines. Although a consensus is unlikely to be reached, there is benefit in using novel perspectives and methodologies to potentially shed new light on existing problems. The proposed research will provide structured evidence as to whether the deterrence interpretation is consistent with the evidence, and contributes to the continuing broader debate around borders, frontiers and artificial boundaries.