Cover by Steve Marking for
the first edition hardback
|Publisher||Weidenfeld & Nicolson|
|Media type||Hardcover, paperback, Kindle|
Watling Street: Travels Through Britain and Its Ever-Present Pastis the fifth book by the British journalist, novelist and cultural historian John Higgs. The book charts Higgs's journey along Watling Street, one of the oldest roads in Britain, from Dover to Anglesey, during which journey he records the so-called hidden history of this ancient path from its first creation up to the present day. As well as recording the historical figures and their stories surrounding the road, Higgs also meets up with and interviews contemporary figures along the way such as Alan Moore and Alistair Fruish. The author describes the history of the road as, "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.
John Higgs is an English writer, novelist, journalist and cultural historian. The work of Higgs has been published in the form of novels, biographies and works of cultural history.
Watling Street is a route in England that began as an ancient trackway first used by the Britons, mainly between the areas of modern Canterbury and St Albans using a natural ford near Westminster. The Romans later paved the route, which then connected the Kentish ports of Dubris (Dover), Rutupiae (Richborough), Lemanis (Lympne), and Regulbium (Reculver) to their bridge over the Thames at Londinium (London). The route continued northwest past Verulamium (St Albans) on its way to Viroconium (Wroxeter). The Romans considered the continuation on to Blatobulgium (Birrens) beyond Hadrian's Wall to be part of the same route, leading some scholars to call this Watling Street as well, although others restrict it to the southern leg.
Dover is a major ferry port in Kent, South East England. It faces France across the Strait of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury and east of Maidstone. The town is the administrative centre of the Dover District and home of the Dover Calais ferry through the Port of Dover. The surrounding chalk cliffs are known as the White Cliffs of Dover.
John Higgs is an English writer, novelist, journalist and cultural historian. Higgs' work has been published in the form of novels (under the pseudonym JMR Higgs), biographies and works of cultural history.
In particular, Higgs has written about the so-called counterculture, exemplified by writers, artists and activists such as Timothy Leary, Robert Anton Wilson, Alan Moore and the British group The KLF. As a journalist, Higgs has written for The Guardian ,The Independent , The Daily Mirror and Mojo magazine.
A counterculture is a subculture whose values and norms of behavior differ substantially from those of mainstream society, often in opposition to mainstream cultural mores. A countercultural movement expresses the ethos and aspirations of a specific population during a well-defined era. When oppositional forces reach critical mass, countercultures can trigger dramatic cultural changes. Prominent examples of countercultures in Europe and North America include Romanticism (1790–1840), Bohemianism (1850–1910), the more fragmentary counterculture of the Beat Generation (1944–1964), followed by the globalized counterculture of the 1960s (1964–1974), usually associated with the hippie subculture and the diversified punk subculture of the 1970s and 1980s.
Timothy Francis Leary was an American psychologist and writer known for advocating the exploration of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions.
Robert Anton Wilson was an American author, novelist, essayist, editor, playwright, poet, futurist, and self-described agnostic mystic. Recognized by Discordianism as an Episkopos, Pope, and saint, Wilson helped publicize the group through his writings and interviews.
As an author, Higgs has written the novels The First Church on the Moon and The Brandy of the Damned; biographies of Timothy Leary and The KLF; and works of history and cultural analysis.
Described as '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,' Higgs traces the footsteps of ancient travellers along the full 276-mile length of Watling Street from beginning to end. Higgs attempts to reveal the forgotten stories and hidden histories of the past that have formed and been told along the thoroughfare, as well as relating ancient histories to modern day Britain.
The book was generally very well received with positive reviews. Caroline Sanderson of The Bookseller wrote, "One of those books where you constantly find yourself underlining pithy quotes, it's a compelling study of the origins of our national identity, at a time when it's becoming more complex than ever"; the Financial Times's Melkissa Harrison said it was "Mischievous and iconoclastic . . . [Higgs's] is a systematising imagination, able to harness disparate elements and find the patterns that animate them; that he does so in a more socially inclusive manner than many enriches his theories enormously";and Ian Samson of Times Literary Supplement called it "A new vision of England . . . full of magic, mystery and bits of William Blake."
The Bookseller is a British magazine reporting news on the publishing industry. Philip Jones is editor-in-chief of the weekly print edition of the magazine and the website. The magazine is home to the Bookseller/Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year, a humorous award given annually to the book with the oddest title. The award is organised by The Bookseller's diarist, Horace Bent, and had been administered in recent years by the former deputy editor, Joel Rickett, and former charts editor, Philip Stone. We Love This Book is its quarterly sister consumer website and email newsletter.
The Financial Times (FT) is an English-language international daily newspaper owned by Nikkei Inc, headquartered in London, with a special emphasis on business and economic news.
It was also named Book of the Day by Ian Thompson in The Guardian,with Thompson describing it: "Higgs, who has previously written about Timothy Leary and the KLF, is drawn to off-piste, countercultural subjects. Watling Street, a hybrid of travel journalism and pavement-pounding sociology, is a journey by car, train and on foot along the ancient Watling Street... In chatty, entertaining pages, he excavates Britain for myths and stories that might “serve us better” as we prepare to leave the EU.... The journey opens near St Margaret’s Bay, where Ian Fleming lived in a cottage he bought in the early 1950s from Noël Coward, and ends in the wilds of Anglesey. Higgs hopes that his journey might provide some insight into the strange, dark mood that 'hangs over our seemingly divided country'."
Watling Street was released with a four-part podcast series by John Higgs and the writer/broadcaster David Bramwell in which the two revisit places along Watling Street and features talks, poetry, music performances and conversations with the various guests they are accompanied by and meet up with, including: Alan Moore, Salena Godden, Iain Sinclair, Miranda Kane, C. J. Stone, John Constable, Andy Miller, Daisy Campbell and Lord Victor Adebowale.
K Foundation Burn a Million Quid was an action on 23 August 1994 in which the K Foundation burned cash in the amount of one million pounds sterling in a disused boathouse on the Ardfin Estate on the Scottish island of Jura. The money represented the bulk of the K Foundation's funds, earned by Drummond and Cauty as The KLF, one of the United Kingdom's most successful pop groups of the early 1990s.
The Fosse Way was a Roman road in England that linked Exeter in South West England to Lincoln in Lincolnshire, via Ilchester (Lindinis), Bath, Cirencester (Corinium) and Leicester.
Atherstone is a town and civil parish in the English county of Warwickshire. Located in the far north of the county, Atherstone forms part of the border with Leicestershire along the A5 national route, and is only 4 miles from Staffordshire. It lies between the larger towns of Tamworth and Nuneaton and contains the administrative offices of North Warwickshire Borough Council.
The Icknield Way is an ancient trackway in southern and eastern England that goes from Norfolk to Wiltshire. It follows the chalk escarpment that includes the Berkshire Downs and Chiltern Hills.
Tripontium was a town in Roman Britain. It lay just off the Roman road later called Watling Street at a site now chiefly within the civil parish of Churchover in the English county of Warwickshire and partly in Leicestershire, some 3.4 miles north-east of Rugby and 3.1 miles south of Lutterworth.
Kilburn is a London Underground station at Brondesbury Park in north-west London. It is on the Jubilee line, between Willesden Green and West Hampstead stations and is in Travelcard Zone 2. The station is on the A5 Kilburn High Road or Shoot-up Hill, approximately 0.1 miles (0.16 km) north of Brondesbury station.
Roman roads in Britannia were initially designed for military use, created by the Roman Army during the nearly four centuries that Britannia was a province of the Roman Empire. It is estimated that about 2,000 mi (3,200 km) of paved trunk roads were constructed and maintained throughout the province. Most of the known network was completed by AD 180. The primary function of the network was to allow rapid movement of troops and military supplies, but it subsequently provided vital infrastructure for commerce, trade and the transportation of goods.
Chill Out is the third studio album by The KLF, released in February 1990 and one of the earliest ambient house concept albums. The music describes a mythical night-time journey to the U.S. Gulf Coast states beginning in Texas and ending in Louisiana.
Dere Street or Deere Street is a modern designation of a Roman road which ran north from Eboracum (York), crossing the Stanegate at Corbridge and continuing beyond into what is now Scotland, later at least as far as the Antonine Wall. Portions of its route are still followed by modern roads, including the A1 and the A68 north of Corbridge.
Ynys Môn is a constituency of the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elects one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.
Dundee railway station serves the city of Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. The station has two through platforms and two terminal platforms. It is situated on the northern, non-electrified section of the East Coast Main Line, 59 1⁄4 miles (95.4 km) northeast of Edinburgh. Dundee is the tenth busiest station in Scotland. In January 2014, the former main station building was demolished to make way for a new building as part of the Dundee Waterfront Project which opened on 9 July 2018.
Bean is a village and civil parish in the borough of Dartford in Kent, England. It is located around three miles southeast of the town of Dartford.
Andrew Zaltzman is a British comedian and author who largely deals in political and sport related material. He has worked extensively with John Oliver and their work together includes Political Animal, The Department, and The Bugle. His performance style is centred on verbal dexterity, and on his love of puns, especially in extended "pun runs".
The KLF are a British electronic band started in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
The A226 road travels in a west–east direction in southeast London and north Kent, from Crayford in the London Borough of Bexley, through Dartford, Gravesend to Strood. It is about 15.7 miles in length. Before road numbering began in the United Kingdom, the road was part of the major route between London and Dover, the road taken by all traffic heading for mainland Europe. When the Ministry of Transport published its first list of road numbers, however, the building of the A2 had already begun; and the earliest map shows the projected route of that latter road; the previous road being relegated to what is now the A226.
William John Burley was a British crime writer, best known for his books featuring the detective Charles Wycliffe, who became the basis of the popular Wycliffe television series throughout the mid 1990s.
The A1 in London is the southern part of the A1 road. It starts at Aldersgate in the City of London, passing through the capital to Borehamwood on the northern fringe of Greater London, before continuing to Edinburgh. The road travels through the City and three London boroughs: Islington, Haringey and Barnet, which include the districts of Islington, Holloway, Highgate, Hendon and Mill Hill, and travels along Upper Street and Holloway Road, crossing the North Circular Road in Hendon, a district in the London Borough of Barnet.
Alistair Fruish is an English filmmaker, writer and novelist, born in Northampton.