Left or Right?


You often say that you only have to ask a question in Motor Sport for the answer to be forthcoming from the collective knowledge of  your readership. I have such a question – what is the historical basis for Britain driving on the left while all other European countries drive on the right? By the natural law, who is correct? The Romans built roads across the length and breadth of Europe, many of which remain to this day, and Roman Society was highly organised so the Rulers would not have left an important issue like this unresolved. I would like to bet that a Legion marching south down the Appian Way would have passed a Legion marching north to the left.

I understand that throughout the ages horse-drawn traffic in Europe passed to the left Primarily because horses are mounted from the left. Ships pass in the night but in restricted Passages and channels they do so to the left. Early motor cars were right hand drive on both sides of the Atlantic and I believe it was Henry Ford who first put the steering wheel on the left in his Model T. I have heard it said that it was Napoleon who decreed a change, certainly he is the only figure whose absolute authority stretched over enough of the Continent to make such a decree stick, even after his demise. When and why then did America change, or were they first?

Large tracts of the world where we have had influence, Central and Southern Africa, Australasia and the Indian sub continent still drive on the left as does Japan. China only changed after Mao came to power in the late 1940’6 and Sweden changed within the last ten years. There is a story that -after partition, Pakistan tried to change to the right but they had not taken the camel into account. Camels ignored the change and by the end of a week the carnage was so great that the rule reverted to the natural side true or false?

Can anybody throw any light on this relatively unimportant but nevertheless intriguing subject?

Hartfield G. I. BIGG