The history of the 17th century French canal that was to inspire the Duke of Bridgewater's canal in England in the next century.
The Canal du Midi was built in just fifteen years from 1666 to 1681, to provide an inland water route through Southern France between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
In recent years the tree-lined canal has become one of the major tourist attractions in South West France and in 1996 it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site.
Writing in 1972, Rolt tells us how this extraordinary engineering achievement was inspired and led by Pierre Paul Riquet, a provincial tax collector, how he won the support of Louis X1V, and how heovercame formidable technical, economic and social problems to accomplish what is now appreciated as one of the most graceful of canals to be found anywhere in the world.
Part of the interest in the book is that it provides an image of the canal at a time (1972) when works were proceeding apace on the lengthening of locks and building the water slope at Montech, signs that there might be a future for waterborne freight transport. The option to modernise the Canal du Midi intrigued Rolt, who had always been a passionate advocate of the potential practical utilitarian use for waterways.
David Edward-May, writer of books and guides on European waterways, brings the story up to date, with a postscript describing the decline and more recent renaissance of the canal as a tourist destination. He has also added maps, plans and drawings to make the book the indispensablecompanion for visitors discovering the canal today.