|MIKE PARKER||Books: Mapping the Roads|
|HOME | ABOUT | BOOKS | TV & RADIO | EVENTS | CONTACT | BLOG|
Books by Mike Parker
In the summer of 2012, I was approached by the publishing arm of the AA, and asked if I'd think about writing a big, illustrated coffee-table kind of book for them. They wanted it on a mapping theme, and with their history and expertise, it seemed wise to marry mapping with the theme of our road network. I went down to see them in Basingstoke, got lost in their incredible archive, and said yes.
The autumn and winter was then spent neck-deep in the history of roads. As with maps and paths, the subjects of two of my previous books, our road network is something that sits firmly in the background, rarely in the focus of our thoughts, and rather taken for granted. I love bringing such subjects into the foreground and turning them towards the light, for it is from these prosaic themes – the 'wallpaper of life' if you like – that we learn so much about our history and identity. As with everything else, maps and roads have been subject to the vagaries of politics and priorities of the day, and those have swung wildly in all directions in the last hundred years.
I learned such a lot researching and writing Mapping the Roads. Inevitably, the largest part of the story is from the turn of the twentieth century and the arrival of the motor car. The first two chapters, however, go back to the days of prehistory, and thence into the Romans, the Middle Ages and the Georgian heyday of the coaching industry.
From the car to the satnav
The car has changed everything, both for better and for worse. The interwar chapter was fascinating to research, for there seemed to be so many parallels with today, but the biggest story was the twenty-five years following the end of World War Two, when our customary obsession with the past was unceremoniously elbowed aside as all eyes focused on the future. To that end, motorways powered across the country, ring roads were driven through historic town centres and whole villages were razed from the map in the gallop towards a new dawn. It wasn't, of course, to last.
The book brings us right up to date, through the 1990s road protest movement and the development of the satnav and digital mapping in the last decade. Mapping the Roads is a surprisingly rumbustious history, with as many twists and turns as any old B-road. I'm delighted with it, and especially with its extensive use of mapping, photographs and other visual material, culled from libraries, archives and cartographers throughout the country.
Buy the book
Mapping the Roads by Mike Parker, AA Publishing, £25
From the reviews:
"Charts the ambitions and hopes of the nation... lavishly illustrated"- bikebiz.com