Historiography, post-colonial theory, and Roman North Africa, a study of the impact of cultural beliefs on historical knowledge

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Annandale, Robert
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Starting from the premise that the historical treatment of a given topic changes over time, this thesis carries out an historiographical examination of writings on the Roman occupation of North Africa. The fact that the Maghreb was colonized by European powers in both ancient and modern times makes it a particularly fruitful area of study for a topic of this kind. The first half of the thesis is a literature review of two centuries of historical writing on Roman North Africa as well as a tracing of the concept of Romanization which, though developed nearly 100 years ago, remains the dominant framework for the study of Roman provinces. After this, a chapter is devoted to debates concerning the possibility of knowing the past as it actually occurred and to post-colonial theory. These ideas are then applied to urbanization, which has traditionally been treated as an integral part of Romanization. This analysis reveals that, although historical works have become less overtly political, biases remain. The Eurocentric discourse of development is singled out as one which continues to inform most writings on Roman Africa including those produced by non-European scholars. It is argued that, even if such biases can never fully disappear, recognition of their presence and impact is necessary if historical knowledge is to move forward. Finally, some suggestions are made concerning future directions for studies of societies within the Roman Empire.