July 19, 2010
The Romans came to realize both the benefits and drawbacks of roads, Ted Conover recounts in his latest book, The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World (Knopf, 2010): “(T)hey allowed for the movement of armies and the expansion of empire,” but “ ‘barbarian’ tribes began making use of Rome’s own roads to attack,” with these passageways becoming “instrumental in effectively ending the Western Roman Empire.”
Conover, a distinguished writer-in-residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, considers six byways around the globe: Peru, the West Bank, India’s Ladakh region, China, East Africa, and Lagos, Nigeria. His narrative reveals the costs and benefits of being connected, demonstrating that roads have played a crucial role in human life—and, as the Romans learned, that they can advance civilization even as they set it back.
Conover’s other works include: Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing; Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America’s Illegal Migrants; and Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America’s Hoboes.
Reviews of Routes of Man may be read here.