978-0-520-05812-5 / 9780520058125

The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century


Publisher:University of California Press



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About the book:

Because it made possible relatively rapid movement and shipping across large distances, joining far-off towns to economic and cultural capitals, many people who lived in the nineteenth century regarded the railway as an instrument of progress. Because anyone with the price of a ticket could board a train, regardless of social class, the railway was also seen as a democratising technology.

But, Wolfgang Schivelbusch notes in this vivid history of early rail travel, the promise of progress and democracy was swiftly compromised: the railways became an agency for the concentration of wealth in a few hands, and they created a class of passive consumers who simply climbed aboard and waited to arrive at their destinations. The railways, Schivelbusch writes, changed the nineteenth-century world for good or ill. They helped rewrite the industrialising world's sense of time, for now precise schedules had to be kept; they reinforced a sense of forward-plunging movement into the future; they even introduced the reality of mass disaster, for trains were always crashing, sometimes taking hundreds of travellers to their deaths.

Delving into urban planning, psychology, architecture, and economics as well as the history of technology, Schivelbusch paints a revealing portrait of the role of the railways in shaping the nineteenth-century mind--one whose influence endures in the present. --Gregory McNamee,

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