This paper explores how the dykes were first brought together as a coherent group of monuments between the 1920s and the 1950s and how they fitted neatly into the prevailing ideas about environment and society. Many of the interpretations of how dykes worked in the landscape either consciously or unconsciously reflected the turmoil of the period. By the 1960s and 1970s, after a huge upheaval in our understanding of society and environment, the dykes did not fit so neatly into the new picture of post-Roman Britain. The relative neglect of the dykes in the second half of the 20th century has left the dykes stranded out on a conceptual limb. Modern writings about the dykes sometimes seem strangely old fashioned as they follow models first set in the 1950s.
If the dykes are to be brought into the 21st century then then the old interpretations need to be rigorously questioned and even basic ideas such as the extent of particular dykes need to be looked at again in the light of new evidence.