The Rhine

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What to expect


Ben Coates, author of Why the Dutch are Different, cycles the Rhine river from mouth to source, discovering the mark it makes on Europe.

The Rhine is one of the world’s greatest rivers. Once forming the outer frontier of the Roman Empire, it flows 800 miles from the social democratic playground of the Netherlands, through the industrial and political powerhouses of Germany and France, to the wealthy mountain fortresses of Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

For five years, Ben Coates lived alongside a major channel of the river in Rotterdam, crossing it daily, swimming and sailing in its tributaries. In The Rhine, he sets out by bicycle from the Netherlands where it enters the North Sea, following it through Germany, France and Liechtenstein, to its source in the icy Alps. He explores the impact that the Rhine has had on European culture and history and finds out how influences have flowed along and across the river, shaping the people who live alongside it.

Blending travelogue and offbeat history, The Rhine tells the fascinating story of how a great river helped shape a continent.

(P) 2021 Hodder & Stoughton Limited

Critics Review

  • Among the finest multi-destination books is The Rhine . . . Coates’s itchy feet paddle him steadily (after a disaster in a rowing boat) on two wheels from Holland (sleeping in dunes), past Utrecht to the German border (Arnhem redolent of war in A Bridge Too Far) to sleepier Bonn. History shimmers across his hinterland, contested in two world wars, and his curiosity – Coates’s great strength – unearths the ways in which the river shaped the destinies of those who made its ever changing banks their home.

    Scotsman - Books of the Year
  • A captivating mixture of travel and history.

  • A piece of nonfiction that’s both a travelogue and historic account of how the river shaped Europe.

    Smithsonian magazine - Books of the Year
  • Ben Coates discovers how the Rhine influenced history.

    Daily Express
  • He conveys well the role of the Rhine in European culture and history: how it has been seen at different times as a “free-flowing conduit for goods, people and ideas” and as a battleground and frontier.

    Daily Telegraph
  • We might question the Rhine being considered ‘Europe’s greatest river’. But Ben Coates makes a persuasive and entertaining argument for the accolade . . . My eagerness to devour each chapter was dependent less on the overall theme of the book, but almost entirely on Coates’ engaging writing style and the playful way he reveals the history of this part of Europe.


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