Richard Oram
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Trackless, impenetrable and underdeveloped?
Roads, colonization and environmental transformation in the Anglo-Scottish border zone, c. 1100 to c. 1300
in Roadworks
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Historical perceptions of the Anglo-Scottish borderlands are dominated by visions of a war-ravaged, ungovernable, economically stunted and culturally retarded zone. This bleak image, reinforced by modern metropolitanism, permeates much discussion of the pre-1300 era but examination of the internal dynamics of the Humber-Forth region reveals a complex road network that served as channels through which flows of people and ideas shaped and reconfigured community identities. Roads were powerful media for cultural change and political reconstruction, forming conduits for colonisation and facilitators of new systems of political domination and dependence. They brought a realignment of settlement patterns and eased into creation sharply defined hierarchies of economic exploitation. This paper explores how the inherited Roman and Anglo-Saxon road networks moulded new political structures in the 12th century, and how the old networks were realigned or superseded to serve a new political prescription. It traces how ‘marchland’ outside established lordship structures was opened up by roads to intensive exploitation regimes by peasant and aristocratic colonists and monastic pioneers, and how they delivered the environmental transformation of the Pennine-Southern Upland hinterland.

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Medieval Britain, medieval roads

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