On Roads: A Hidden History
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On Roads: A Hidden History

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  55 ratings  ·  9 reviews
In this highly original slice of post-war history, Joe Moran explores how the British have built, mapped and driven the roads that we all use but rarely stop to think about.
Paperback, 312 pages
Published May 21st 2010 by Profile Books (first published 2009)
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It's proving to me a bit of a long journey. I have had recent unpleasant relationships with motorways and their peripheral appendices so suffer a mild form of traumatic unease that feels like a dull miasma whenever I open the book. This is very well researched book, well written (understated, with gleams and flashes of sharp wit along the ways) mainly about motorways in the UK, but structured to raise interesting cultural perspectives 'on roads'.
I have taken to skimming it, delighted to see it...more
Moran is just a wonderful writer. He explores the topic of roads in Britain with his left-leaning French-influenced sociologist's insight, also taking in contemporary art, popular culture, political analysis and architectural and engineering history. Moran has an eye for exceptional characters and their life stories and weaves in a few of these unintrusively. He uses his clearly extensive research masterfully, crafting beautiful prose which I think should be mentioned in the same bracket as Sinc...more
Just as most of us look back at the past and remark curiously that keeping bearded ladies in cages, eating veal and watching the Black and White Minstrel Show were once deemed to be innocent activities, so it will hopefully be the case that we will one day regard driving in the same way: as we sit on the edge of our own private islands amidst the terror of global apocalypse brought on by climate change that is.

This marvellous book is a classic socio-cultural history of the British M roads, full...more
David Hebblethwaite
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.

The British road system in the post-war years may not sound a particularly interesting subject for a work of history, but this is part of Moran’s point – roads are so commonplace that we hardly ever stop to think about them. What Moran suggests, however, is that the road system was a far more pragmatic...more
Terry Clague
A very enjoyable book - worth reading this and watching the BBC's excellent three part documentary The Secret Life of the Motorway.: . Certainly this felt like a breath of fresh air among the chuffing greenwash guff that gets pumped out in large corporations these days in their attempts to make their wage slaves feel involved in something other than their senior bosses greedy strategic machinations.

"Many Northerners will identify with Jan Struther's Mrs Miniver, who always felt a 'stab of excite...more
Adam Higgitt
Technically this was published in 2009, but I claim it by virtue of the paperback edition that came out this year. On Roads is that rare achievement of a poetic and fascinating study of that most mundane of things: the motorway system and major road network of postwar Britain. Teasing out the hidden dimensions to the mundane is in fact Moran’s USP as a historian, and his study ranges across (along?) the road, both as cultural artefact and as spine of the everyday Britain he wants to get beneath...more
A very well researched and written account of the peculiar British road network. Mainly focussing on the motorway system, it tracks its roots, history, troubled development and possible future. This is an unusual book and well worth reading for the insightful glimpse into our country's cultural association, affinity and distaste of the many miles of tarmac we take for granted each day.
Catherine  Mustread
Jun 29, 2009 Catherine Mustread marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catherine by: Traffic blog 062908
Shelves: non-fiction
from How We Drive, the Blog of Tom Vanderbilt's Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt: "It’s expansive, unexpected cultural history and in some ways an ideal companion volume to Traffic"
found a lot of my interests included all together on one lovely package. Well written collection of thoughts on roads, cars, there inventions and the cultural impact they have made on our lives. Recommended
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“Every year, more than 120,000 new books are published in Britain, creating millions of volumes that will never be opened, let alone read. Many of these unread books are shredded into tiny fibre pellets called bitumen modifier, which can beused to make roads, holding the blacktop in place and doubling up as a sound absorber. A mile of motorway consumes about 50,000 books. The M6 Toll Road used up two-and-a-half million old Mills and Boon novels, romantic dreams crushed daily by juggernauts...Having your unread books vanish into the authorless anonymity of a road feels pleasingly melancholic, like having your ashes scattered in a vast ocean.” 1 likes
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