Britannia is a battle re-enactment society with a living history wing. As such a society, its roots are firmly planted in the spectacle and pageant of the numerous groups that performed ‘historical presentations’ for the public before the advent of living history.
(Living history & experimental archaeology are relatively new disciplines that have grown out of the academic/research side of historical re-enactment, many archaeologists, television production units and authors now regularly consult re-enactment groups and individuals on a range of subjects).
WHAT IS ACCURATE?
This is a matter of some debate amongst historians, archaeologists, re-enactors, wargamers, film wardrobe departments and illustrators. The best way of summing our approach to this difficult question is to say:
Without the facility of a time machine we cannot truly say how equipment, clothing and weaponry was used –
-all we can do is offer our best interpretation given the evidence that we have.
For an ancient period such as our own we have the following evidence:
Artistic (fresco painting, sculpture & mosaic) numismatic (coin imagery).
Narrative (surviving commentary including primary and secondary evidence) and of course archaeological material.
Often these elements provide enough material from which to base convincing reconstructions, but occasionally where there is no evidence whatsoever
guesswork and common sense have to be employed (also there are occasions where the health and safety of participants and crowd mean that total historical accuracy has to be compromised).
BEST OF BOTH WORLDS
Despite being battle re-enactors, we have concentrated on researching many aspects of ancient life and warfare, from clothing, medicine, transport diet
and military equipment. The periods we had chosen to represent were obscure and lacked much in the way of source material, because of this we had put a great deal of time into research and reconstruction, constantly revising and refining our conclusions. In doing so Britannia members have written three books and advised on several other publications:
Barbarian Warriors (Dan & Susanna Shadrake, Brasseys- 1997) and The World of the Gladiator (Susanna Shadrake, Tempus 2005).
Apicius (Sally Grainger & Chris Grocock, Prospect 2006).
In essence we want the best of both worlds, we want the entertainment and spectacle of the old style battle re-enactment groups, but we also strive for the credibility of living history and research associations. Our aim is to provide thrilling combat displays in the most historically credible arms and equipment possible.