Book review: ‘Watling Street’ by John Higgs

Travels through Britain and its ever-present past.

Watling StreetThis book was recommended to me by a friend. He thought I might enjoy it as ‘it has something of the thoughts-on-a-walk feel of On the Moor about it’. He was right: I did enjoy the book; and the device of going off on all manner of random tangents inspired by things encountered on a journey was indeed reminiscent of my own book (albeit, as my friend observed, the themes were different).

In ‘Watling Street’, John Higgs uses a sporadic trip up the eponymous Roman road as an excuse to investigate such diverse topics as:

  • fortifications under Dover cliffs;
  • Boudicca;
  • the code-breakers of Bletchley Park;
  • conflicting hypotheses about what inspired James Bond’s code-name, OO7;
  • the link between Charles Dickens and Rod Hull & Emu;
  • highwaymen (and women);
  • rugby football mythology.

It’s all very entertaining stuff, set against the backdrop of the UK’s insane Brexit vote (my adjective, not Higgs’s). Oh, and there’s even a four-part podcast, which is a nice touch.


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