Medieval bridges are startling achievements of design and engineering comparable with the great cathedrals of the period, and are also proof of the great importance of road transport in the middle ages and of the size and sophistication of the medieval economy. David Harrison rewrites their history from early Anglo-Saxon England right up to the Industrial Revolution, providing new insights into many aspects of the subject. Looking at the role of bridges in the creation of a new road system, which was significantly different from its Roman predecessor and which largely survived until the twentieth century, he examines their design. Often built in the most difficult circumstances: broad flood plains, deep tidal waters, and steep upland valleys, they withstood all but the most catastrophic floods. He also investigates the immense efforts put into their construction and upkeep, ranging from the mobilization of large work forces by the old English state to the role of resident hermits and the charitable donations which produced bridge trusts with huge incomes.
The evidence presented in The Bridges of Medieval England shows that the network of bridges, which had been in place since the thirteenth century, was capable of serving the needs of the economy on the eve of the Industrial Revolution. This has profound implications for our understanding of pre-industrial society, challenging accepted accounts of the development of medieval trade and communications, and bringing to the fore the continuities from the late Anglo-Saxon period to the eighteenth century. This book is essential reading for those interested in architecture, engineering, transport, and economics, and any historian sceptical about the achievements of medieval England.
`Review from previous edition This original, carefully researched and well-presented book makes a remarkable contribution to our understanding of the medieval world.
Christopher Dyer, Landscape History
`an impressive and beautifully written book with a remarkable chronological range...this work should be in every academic library and on the reading-list of every course in English economic history.
N.P. Brooks, English Historical Review
`Remarkably the history and archaeology of medieval bridges is a completely neglected subject. Until this book was written, there was no scholarly account of English bridges before the 18th century. This excellent volume now plugs the gap, and gives an important account of English bridges between the Anglo-Saxon period and the late 18th century.
Tim Tatton-Brown, Medieval Archaeology
`This important book is a wide-ranging study of how the network of bridges developed, their design, construction and repair, and the social and economic questions that they raise..The illustrations are fresh and demonstrate that Dr Harrison was prepared to get his feet wet. While concentrating on the Middle Ages, the author boldly and rightly covers the whole period between the withdrawal of Rome and the Industrial Revolution.
Derek Renn, The Antiquaries Journal
`To the outsider, standing at a distance, a study of medieval bridges is likely to smell of academic specialization. Yet David Harrison's book calmly avoids obscurity. In this, the first monograph on the subject, he lays bare an embarrassingly obvious truth that some historianshave failed to undress. A nation's infrastructure and its economy are indistinguishable, and it follows that one will tell you an awful lot about the other.
`This book will undoubtedly form the mainstay of all future studies on the subject.
Part I: Bridge Construction and the Creation of the English Road System
3: Change: 400 to 1250
4: Stability: Bridges and the Road System after 1250
Part II: The Structure of Bridges
5: Challenges, Options, Sources
6: Early Solutions: Timber Deck Bridges and Causeways
7: Vaulted Stone Bridges: From the Eleventh Century to the Late Middle Ages
8: The Golden Age of Stone Bridges: From the Late Middle Ages to the Nineteenth Century
9: Keeping the Bridge Network in Use
Part III: Economics and Society
11: Funding Mechanisms
12: Conclusions: Bridges, Transport, and Pre-Industrial Society