The military roads were built on command of the English Government in the mid 1700's so they could send their army north to bring unruly Highlanders, who were waging the Jacobite Rebellion, under control. Throughout the rest of Britain there were already many roads built by the Romans 1500 years earlier but as the Romans did not make it to the Highlands, new roads had to be built. General Wade, an English army officer, was responsible for making the new roads to connect the army forts and barracks recently established throughout Scotland.
The Jacobites (named after the Latin for James, Jacobus) were the Catholic followers of King James Stuart (James II of England and Ireland, James VII of Scotland). King James troubled many in the upper classes and powerful political circles because of his religious persuasion.
King James's daughter, Princess Mary, unlike her father, was a Protestant. In 1677 Mary married another Protestant, a Dutch nobleman, William of Orange.
In 1688 King James and his wife had a son. The threat of a Catholic dynasty was unacceptable to many in the British establishment, not least because of the fear of the close ties that could be made with the Catholic French Monarchy. The "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 was manufactured by English parliamentarians to allow William of Orange to invade England with his Dutch fleet where, as King James fled into exile in France, he was installed as the new King with Mary as his Queen.
James still had a lot of support in the primarily Catholic Ireland and Highlands of Scotland. There were a series of uprising and revolts between 1689 and 1746, culminating in the “Forty-five Rebellion” when James’s son, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” came to Scotland and launched the rebellion at Glenfinnan in the Scottish Highlands. After early victories, and a successful foray into England, Bonnie Prince Charlie retreated to Scotland and he and the Jacobite forces were finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.
After Culloden, the British Government banned the wearing of tartan, and bagpipes, as they attempted to assert control over the Highlands. Troops were garrisoned throughout Scotland, using General Wade's roads.