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Wa­ter­way en­thu­si­asts know Thomas Telford for his Cale­do­nian, Mac­cles­field and Shrop­shire Union canals, and his con­tri­bu­tion (some­times the sub­ject of great de­bate) to the build­ing of the Pont­cy­syllte aqueduct. But al­though Telford worked on 17 canals, that was just one part of a ca­reer which also in­volved 37 docks and har­bours, 35 churches, and well over 1,000 miles of roads. How­ever, this bi­og­ra­phy doesn’t just re­count his many en­gi­neer­ing achieve­ments. It does its best to un­der­stand the char­ac­ter of Telford: a poor Scots shep­herd boy who be­came an en­gi­neer­ing gi­ant; a driven and rest­less man al­ways mov­ing on to his next project; a cheer­ful and gen­er­ous bene­fac­tor; a sup­porter of met­ri­ca­tion; and even a writer of po­etry.

Man of Iron: Thomas Telford and the Build­ing of Bri­tain, Ju­lian Glover, Blooms­bury, blooms­, £20, 978-1-4088-3746-7

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