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  • Watling Street

  • Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Past
  • By: John Higgs
  • Narrated by: John Higgs
  • Length: 12 hrs and 24 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (131 ratings)

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Watling Street cover art

Watling Street

By: John Higgs
Narrated by: John Higgs
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Summary

A journey along one of Britain's oldest roads, from Dover to Anglesey, in search of the hidden history that makes us who we are today. 

Long ago a path was created by the passage of feet tramping through endless forests. Gradually that path became a track, and the track became a road. It connected the White Cliffs of Dover to the Druid groves of the Welsh island of Anglesey, across a land that was first called Albion then Britain, Mercia and eventually England and Wales. Armies from Rome arrived and straightened this 444 kilometres of meandering track, which in the Dark Ages gained the name Watling Street. Today, this ancient road goes by many different names: the A2, the A5 and the M6 Toll. It is a palimpsest that is always being rewritten. 

Watling Street is a road of witches and ghosts, of queens and highwaymen, of history and myth, of Chaucer, Dickens and James Bond. Along this route Boudicca met her end, the Battle of Bosworth changed royal history, Bletchley Park code breakers cracked Nazi transmissions and Capability Brown remodelled the English landscape. The myriad people who use this road every day might think it unremarkable, but, as John Higgs shows, it hides its secrets in plain sight. Watling Street is not just the story of a route across our island but an acutely observed, unexpected exploration of Britain and who we are today, told with wit and flair and an unerring eye for the curious and surprising.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our desktop site.

©2017 John Higgs (P)2018 Orion Publishing Group
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"Myths combine with staggeringly fascinating facts, while Higgs' take on our national imagination and the nature of history is refreshingly original.... [A] mad, but brilliant, odyssey." (Rebecca Armstrong, I Paper)

"It's erudite, funny, philosophical, often wildly esoteric and packed with factual asides.... Above all Watling Street provokes a new and exciting discourse on national pride and identity. You can hear the singing of our ancestors in a chorus of shared heritage whose melody is steeped in the land." (Charlie Connelly, New European)

"A bravura piece of writing - Bill Bryson on acid." (Tom Holland)

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What listeners say about Watling Street

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fantastic story

in my opinion John Higgs writes the most important books of the early 21st century. It is people like him who make me proud to be British. Outstanding work

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Brilliant in places

A bit less consistent than some of his recent books, but brilliant in places, I very much enjoyed this historical tour taken along a single British road.

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A lovely book

This is in a small part travel writing but more a book about history, philosophy and art. And other stuff too. I found it seriously thought provoking and often funny too.

Highly recommended for pretty much anyone, I think. As is his more recent Love and Let Die incidentally.

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Densely fascinating

For anyone who has an interest in these Islands we call Britain and the stories that have led us to this contradictory state of politics. Optimistic in tone though, as Higgs constantly brings us back to the ancient and unchanging truth that we are one. All else is open to interpretation and, ultimately, mutable. Enjoy.

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Very interesting with a wise range of subjects explored!

A clever use of the subject as a means of exploring a wide range of phenomena, histories, lost artifacts & co-incidences. Not sure that this case the pdfs add to the content - not least as the start point is on the lower right hand half of the first page!

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Very Enjoyable

Enjoyable and interesting, except for when Higgs offensively stated that cross dressing women of the past were transgender. Although I trust this misogyny was unintended he could really do well to review it!

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A look at Britain's soul via Watling Street

I very much enjoy John Higgs' books amdvwasmt disappointed in this title. Having grown up just 400 metres away from Watling Street, in Gillingham, Kent, I was intrigued to hear about the road.

If you're looking for a standard travelogue then this probably isn't the book for you. But if you enjoy the unusual and hidden side of culture then you'll enjoy this one.

Bemused by the negative reviews talking about Brexit and saying it's overtly political. There is no overt political text in here, at least nothing explicitly so. Higgs also takes no sides in the Brexit debate and even makes a point of stating that we can all draw on this nation's history and can split the country in hundreds of ways. It's a shame that people are so thin-skinned and review without even listening to the whole book. Perhaps people are more sensitive now that Brexit is proving to be a disaster?

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My new favourite author.

A great British road trip with many fascinating stories along the way, loved the narration too.

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Another fantasic book from John Higgs

John Higgs is blooming brilliant. After listening to “KLF” and “20th Century” I was looking forward to listening to this book and it did not disappoint, loved the references to the other two books.
Loads of fascinating stories all the way along Watling Street.

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An Entertaining Listen

Thoroughly enjoyable apart from a couple of things that pulled me straight out, but otherwise an interesting take on history, language, and the A5.

The thing that really grated though is this; The Finnish word is not SUSI, it's SISU ffs.

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2 people found this helpful