Thinking Tools sets out to question the prevalent assumption that the slave economy of late Republican and early Imperial Italy was based on a largely adult male slave population. The author draws both on a close reading of the Roman agricultural writers and on visual and archaeological evidence to argue that the Roman villas of the Italian countryside were normally staffed by slave families. In doing so, she both demonstrates the role of female labour in the productive landscape of Roman Italy and radically revises our estimate of the economic potential of the slave estates in Italy created by the development of the Roman empire overseas. Thinking Tools provides fresh insights into everyday nutrition and into the making and use of textiles and the gender roles implied by these aspects of material culture. By drawing parallels with other slave-owning societies – from the ancient world to the Americas of the nineteenth century – Thinking Tools takes our understanding of the role of slavery and of slave families to a new level.