In this history of roads and what they have meant to the people who have driven them, one of Britain's favourite cultural historians reveals how a relatively simple road system turned into a maze-like pattern of roundabouts, flyovers, and spaghetti junctions. Using a unique blend of travel writing, anthropology, history and social observation, he explores how Britain's roads have their roots in unexpected places, from Napoleon's role in the numbering system to the surprising origin of sat-nav. Full of quirky nuggets of history, such as the day trips organised to see the construction of the M1 and the 2.5m Mills and Boons used to build the M6 Toll Road, On Roads also celebrates innovators whose work we take for granted, such as the designers of the road sign system. On subjects ranging from speed limits to driving on the left, and the 'non-places where we stop to the unwritten laws of traffic jams, these hidden stories have never been told together, until now.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
If you find it a little strange that a History Professor from Liverpool would write an entire book on the subject of the British Motorway, you’ll find it even stranger – should you pick up a copy – that you cannot stop reading it! Joe Moran also wrote another highly regarded book on the subject of Queuing (lining up) for Beginners and is a Cultural Historian, who, says Robert Macfarlane in “The Guardian” takes subjects that should not be really be interesting and makes them so. I found myself endlessly quoting snippets and facts from this work … I am sure my wife could write a review of this fascinating book, even though she did not actually read it. Using the advent of the first Motorway, built just after WWII, Moran introduces the concepts of planning, forecasting, logistics and politics of road building and attendant “Black Arts” of costing (and budget overruns of course), the necessary size, color and background of lettered signs to enable them to be read at safe distances at high speeds and the revolution of changing from roman capital lettering to computer generated sans serif signage. Quoting Betjeman and Paul Theroux the author lays out the story of development protests, tree-housing squatters and ‘tree huggers’, and early examples of ‘occupying’ by indignant local populations demonstrating against – and sometimes even for – the new road that they wanted built in somebody else’s backyard. A history of the palimpsest nature of roads, rarely truly ‘new’ in Britain’s cluttered history, from Romans through Napoleon to the “Iron Lady”, Margaret Thatcher and the series of beleaguered Ministers of Transport the human side of the road story is fascinating reading.
Review: On Roads: A Hidden HistoryUser Review - Goodreads
I've long been interested in social and cultural history, and there will always be a place on my shelves for books that illuminate the more unusual corners of history. On Roads is just such a book ...
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