The Road: a story of Romans and ways to the past


The Road is a personal journey by the author to experience Roman roads and how they impacted the lives of those around them, and the surrounding landscape, not just 2,000 years ago, but in more recent times. Seeking the essence of Roman roads, how and why they continue to influence us, Hadley brings together an eclectic mix of history, archaeology, geography, and observation. On his journey, Hadley learns about the origins of Romans roads, and how archaeologists and scholars have used technology to rediscover them. Along the way, he recounts some of the myths and stories that have been influenced by these ancient networks.

Beginning in Kent, where the Romans first landed, Hadley covers the early history of Roman Britain as he makes his way north through Britannia. He goes into the origins and history of research into Roman roads, and how technologies such as aerial photography and LiDAR have helped to shape and develop our knowledge. The last section of his book charts some of the social influences and the post-Roman impact of Roman roads, and their influences on history.

The Road is about journeying into our past, and how the influence of the Romans on the landscape continues to affect us. Hadley’s love and respect for the tales and stories of those influenced by these roads is clear in the book, and he successfully transfers that enthusiasm to the reader. He demonstrates a good understanding of the Roman road network in Britain, not just focusing on what we know, but he also acknowledges what we do not know about them, as well as appreciating the ongoing efforts to improve and develop our knowledge of these ancient routes. One niggle is the relevance of some quotations, and their positioning in the text, which can be a little jarring and interrupt the flow, but these are minor concerns. It is a well-researched and engaging volume, although it would have been nice to see more illustrations in the book, particularly the beautifully executed map line drawings. The Road is a welcome addition to our interpretation of Roman roads.

Christopher Hadley
William Collins, £20
ISBN 978-0008356699