Originally published in 1968, and using official records, this book charts the history of the Railway Clearing House and shows the vital role it played in the development of British railways and the growth of the economy. The Clearing House established a common classification of goods; standardized signalling systems and telegraphic codes among the 120 railway companies which operated in Britain before the First World War. It was the nerve centre of the railway for nearly a century and at one time more than 2,500 clerks were employed in its huge offices near Euston Station in London.
Most research and writing on railway history has been undertaken in a way that disconnects it from the wider cultural milieu. Authors have been very effective at constructing specialist histories of transport, but have failed to register the railway's central importance in the representation and understanding of modernity. This book brings together contributions from a range of established scholars in a variety of disciplines with the central purpose of exploring the railway less as a transport technology than as a key signifier of capitalist modernity. It examines the complex social relations in which the railway became historically embedded, identifying it as a central problematic in the cultural experience of modernity. It avoids the limitations of both the close-sighted empiricism typical of many transport historians and the long-sighted generalizations of cultural commentators who view the railway merely as a shorthand for the concept of progress over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book draws on a diverse range of materials, including literary and historical forms of representation. It is also informed by a creative application of various critical theories.
A World History of Railway Cultures, 1830-1930 is the first collection of primary sources to historicize the cultural impact of railways on a global scale from their inception in Great Britain to the Great Depression. Its dual purpose is to promote understanding of complex historical processes leading to globalization and generate interest in transnational and global comparative research on railways. In four volumes, organized by historical geography, this scholarly collection gathers rare out-of-print published and unpublished materials from archival and digital repositories throughout the world. It adopts a capsule approach that focuses on short selections of significant primary source content instead of redundant and irrelevant materials found in online data collections. The current collection draws attention to railway cultures through railroad reports, parliamentary papers, government documents, police reports, public health records, engineering reports, technical papers, medical surveys, memoirs, diaries, travel narratives, ethnographies, newspaper articles, editorials, pamphlets, broadsides, paintings, cartoons, engravings, photographs, art, ephemera, and passages from novels and poetry collections that shed light on the cultural history of railways. The editor’s original essays and headnotes on the cultural politics of railways introduce over 200 carefully selected primary sources. Students and researchers come to understand railways not as applied technological impositions of industrial capitalism but powerful, fluid, and idiosyncratic historical constructs.