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Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand.
I thought that it might be worth accessing Haverfield’s 1914 letter to The Antiquary as this probably summarises his definitive view of the revolt. It is in Vol. 50 of the journal on pp. 439-440, under the title ‘The Battle between Boadicea and Suetonius’. Unfortunately, it is only available in snippet view in Google Books. However, I have found four snippets which probably cover most of the ground. The first is the beginning of the letter and the others, which join together, are the end of it, the last being followed by Haverfield’s name. There is a gap of uncertain length between the first and the second snippets and some of the wording is indistinct, so it may be worth getting a decent copy of it, once the libraries reopen, to clarify any uncertainties. My reading of what I have found is as follows:

‘In your September number, a reviewer of Messrs. Foord and Gordon’s [sic, the authors are Edward Foord and Gordon Home] England Invaded (London, 1913) discusses the Roman conquest of Britain, and credits me with the “assumption that Suetonius retired on Deva” before he fought with Boadicea.  . . . should like to say that I do not think that I have ever made the assumption in question, though others have. What I have said about the campaign of Suetonius is this in brief: The narrative of Tacitus shows clearly that: i. when the revolt of Boadicea broke out in East Anglia Suetonius was fighting in or near Anglesea with a force not precisely described, but certainly comprising the better part of the 20,000 men then stationed in or near Chester: ii. that he at once posted to the scene of the revolt, moving – very naturally – faster than the main body and reached London with practically no troops: and iii. that he then fell back on his main body, and fought the battle. So far Tacitus. The line of the Roman roads enables us to add that, coming from Anglesea, he must have marched along Watling Street, and his troops must have come up behind him along the same line. The fight must then have taken place somewhere along Watling Street, or near it. It is even possible that it was near Chester, though it is not likely. I prefer my own suggestion, that it was in the southern Midlands. It cannot possibly have been in Surrey, as your reviewer urges, because Suetonius cannot have gone there to meet the troops whom Tacitus says he did meet. Your reviewer does not seem to have grasped either what Tacitus says, or – what matters less – what I have said.’

The ‘southern’ in ‘southern Midlands’ is indistinct but, as it occurs in the publication of the Ford Lectures and that cites the letter, I assume it to be correct. The letter raises a number of questions. Where did Haverfield get the idea that 20,000 men were stationed ‘in or near Chester’ and that these ‘certainly’ comprised the greater part of the force assaulting Anglesey? Presumably, it was the belief in this force that allowed him to disregard the figure mentioned by Tacitus, despite chiding the reviewer for having failed to grasp what Tacitus says. Likewise, the only thing that Tacitus ‘shows clearly’ is that Suetonius was campaigning in the Anglesey area when the uprising broke out. The rest is speculation.

Haverfield may be being unfair to the reviewer in criticising the suggestion that the battle took place in Surrey. The review is also in Vol. 50 of The Antiquary, beginning on p.358, but I cannot access it. It may be worth getting a copy of this too, when the libraries reopen. However, the reviewer may simply have been echoing the book. England Invaded was reprinted in 2014 and is previewed in Google Books. Some pages will be missing but those relating to the Boudican revolt are complete. The authors base their account on another (although probably equally flawed) interpretation of Tacitus. Of Suetonius’ journey to London, they say, ‘There is really no reason to believe, as has been suggested, that he had outpaced his army and had only his escort with him’. I don’t think that any of us would dissent from that, although we would probably disagree with their other assertion that he had his whole force of 10,000 men with him at that time. They suggest, for reasons that I will let you look up for yourselves, that his only major source of reinforcements was the Second Legion and its auxiliaries in the west and that, therefore, he crossed the Thames and withdrew towards Silchester along the route Banstead, Epsom Downs, Headley, Ranmore and Guildford (a rather eccentric way of getting to Silchester, in my opinion). The battle, in their view, took place somewhere on that line.

It will come as no surprise if I say that I do not think much of either Haverfield’s or Foord and Home’s theories.
Michael King Macdona

And do as adversaries do in law, -
Strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.
(The Taming of the Shrew: Act 1, Scene 2)
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Messages In This Thread
Re: Calling all armchair generals! - by Ensifer - 03-11-2010, 03:13 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-18-2012, 06:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 12:02 AM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 02:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 05:40 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 02-19-2012, 11:26 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 05:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 09:42 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-24-2012, 10:10 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:11 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 03:25 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-25-2012, 08:36 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-26-2012, 02:57 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 04-27-2012, 01:50 PM
Re: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by Steve Kaye - 08-05-2012, 02:24 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-07-2014, 02:18 PM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-08-2014, 01:50 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-11-2014, 02:03 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-18-2014, 07:54 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-20-2014, 02:37 AM
Calling all armchair generals! Boudica\'s Last Stand. - by antiochus - 11-25-2014, 08:29 AM
RE: Calling all armchair generals! Boudica's Last Stand. - by Renatus - 06-08-2020, 08:20 PM

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