Research interests

Research themes

My research follows two main (and complementary) directions: Roman dress and the Roman life course. My interest in dress focuses on dress in action: in understanding the varied source material (archaeological textiles, iconography, literary and documentary writing) to build a picture of the effect of dress as worn. I am interested in how dress is used to display status, gender, age, ethnicity and identity generally, and how that identity is negotiated through the Roman social system. Working at the Danish National Research Foundation’s Centre for Textile Research at Copenhagen gave me a far wider perspective on dress in terms of ancient history, archaeology and anthropology and a future project will involve me in tracing ideas of ‘traditional’ craft from the point of view of the historian. Study trips to both Iran (2009) and India (2012) have also produced insights into uses and manipulation of draped clothing, and the problems of attempting to de-code dress as an outsider – a situation reminiscent of the ancient historian trying to access Roman private life.

Research into the Roman life course encompasses the study of age and ageing with focus on stages of life (childhood, youth, early and mid-adulthood, old age) but more particularly on inter- and cross-generational relationships. I am interested in the way in which assumptions about behaviour at certain stages of life underlies much of the social discourse that surrounds family life in the Roman period while at the same time Roman authors acknowledged the difference between chronological, biological and social ageing.

This work includes the history of the Roman family, and the study of private life, gender and the emotions. This work ties in with my interest in dress, in particular in my membership of the European Dress ID project (2005-12) (Group C: Age and Gender). Currently I collaborate with colleagues in the UK, in Denmark (Copenhagen), Sweden (Gothenburg) and in Canada in these areas of research.

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