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The Synopsis

Hidden clues in an old book are solved to expose a fantastic plot organised by Charles II against his own country. The seventeenth century comes to life in a completely new way.

The old book is John Ogilby’s Britannia. Ogilby is amazing enough in his own right: he went through nine careers at the heart of Stuart Britain’s dramatic and violent upheavals. Starting out as a child pedlar, his astonishing combination of luck and charm helped him make (and lose) three fortunes apparently without ever making an enemy. He was dancer, poet, publisher (the first crowd-funding publisher), Master of the Revels in Ireland and impresario. His final project, when he was over 70, was to create from scratch a new kind of map, the first national road atlas of any country in the world. Until this old man accurately measured 20,000 miles of roads, maps simply did not have roads on them.

The story of his life is a marvellous journey through a world in transition, with a man who goes through every kind of catastrophe and always rises again to new triumphs in new fields, dramatically experiencing the transformation of a country and world in ferment and experiencing its life on every level from abject poverty to wealth and ceremony. But his crowning glory is his final work, Britannia.

Published in 1675, it shows his measured distances between towns, villages, great houses, churches and castles along what he says were the principal roads of the kingdom. It includes hills, rivers, bridges, even gibbets. It was in every sense a landmark publication.

But Britannia is not what it seems. Once I began physically exploring the roads that Ogilby mapped through Wales, they seemed so strange that there was obviously an unsuspected mystery here. And the book is dense with deliberate clues as to its real meaning.

The Nine Lives of John Ogilby reveals that Britannia is the key to a major turning-point in British history, uncovering its place in a plot concerning a secret treaty, an invasion plan, a Royal mistress and a sinister eminence grise with a black patch on his nose. It involves sex, religion, money and the secret service.

"You actually seem to have discovered something new about history. The first road atlas of Britain has dirty political fingerprints all over it"
Ronald Hutton, Professor of History, University of Bristol

The Excerpt

Joining The Dance

When the lawyers decided that judges were subverting the law, they acted decisively and dramatically. On February 2nd, 1610, when the judges came to Lincoln’s Inn, the barristers refused to dance.

Dancing was at the heart of the law. Every Saturday through the winter until Candlemas, the Inns of Court held their Revels. Members of an Inn who did not dance could be fined. February 2nd was Candlemas and the benchers of Lincoln’s Inn, its senior members, had invited the Judges to their Revels. But the barristers would not dance.

This challenged authority at its core. The ritual of dancing the Old Measures was how lawyers physically participated in the inner law of the world which governed men and nature. The Common Law was not invented by Kings or Parliaments; it was the law inherent in the world from time immemorial, which lawyers learned to understand and interpret. The laws that kept the stars in their courses gave power to Princes and meaning to agreements. The Commonwealth and common sense, the common man and the Commons of England, formed a harmony with the heavens themselves and the Courts of Kings and Courts of Justice stepped together to the tune of the music of the spheres. But now the barristers would not dance.


The Author

Alan has devoted much of the last fifty years to the production of radio and TV history programmes, mostly for the BBC, receiving a number of national and international awards.  He has also been much involved with the Kogi, an indigenous group in Colombia, with whom he has made two films and written a book which won the Green Book Award and remains in print after over 20 years.  His new film with them, ALUNA, will be released at the end of the year.

He has worked extensively with Terry Jones on history programmes and books, including the series for BBC Wales, Great Map Mystery, which first explored the secret of Ogilby’s work.

His previous books include The People’s England, The Invergordon Mutiny, The Heart of the World and – with Terry Jones – Crusades, Medieval Lives and Barbarians.

The Rewards

All supporters get their name printed in every edition of the book. All levels include the ebook and immediate access to the author's shed.


Digital edition, your name in the back and access to the author's shed

📖 Pledge £10 36 pledges

1st edition hardback, digital edition and your name printed in the back

📖 Pledge £20 113 pledges

Signed 1st edition hardback, ebook edition and your name printed in the back

📖 Pledge £50 33 pledges

2 invites to the launch party, 1st edition signed hardback, ebook edition and your name printed in the back

📖 Pledge £100 7 pledges
Sponsor A Map

Your name printed as sponsor under a map of your choice in the book, plus a signed 1st edition hardback, ebook edition and your name printed in the back

📖 Pledge £150 7 pledges

A lunch in London with Terry Jones & Alan Ereira plus 2 invites to the launch party, 1st edition signed hardback, ebook edition and your name printed in the back

📖 Pledge £250 3 pledges
The Road to Aberystwyth

Spend a weekend with Alan Ereira exploring the road to Aberystwith shown in Britannia discovering lost trackways and the most beautiful road in Britain. Includes travel from London, food and hotel. Plus1st edition signed hardback, ebook edition and your name printed in the back