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Analyse The Impact Of The Invention And Development Of Railways On Everyday Life In Victorian Britain.

2172 words - 9 pages

In the 19th Century Britain witnessed a period of huge social, economic and political change. During this period, industry, the quality of life and communications were transformed. The development of rail transport is often viewed as one of the major influences of the time. Many in their attempt to aid society's progression supported railways. At the same time for others the railways were unwelcome and were responsible for reaping havoc on everyday life.To enable me to analyse the impact of railways on Victorian society, I will provide a brief overview of life before the invention of the railway. Moving to focus on the many social, political and economic changes. By looking at accounts both for and against what Perkin (1970, p6) refers to as the 'great connecter'. I will attempt to assess what impact railways had, and if that impact is as important as we are often led to believe.Before railways, main forms of goods transportation were canals, packhorses and carriages. Canals in particular were an excellent method of transportation, mainly because they were cheap and easily accessible. Perkin (1970, p30)) refers to the canal network and states 'By the Bounty of nature, Britain was blessed with an excellent network of navigable rivers, leading down to the universal highroad, the sea itself '. Although they were cheap and accessible, canals were also slow and as such were limited in what goods they could transport.Alternate methods of transporting goods at the time were by horse and carriage. However uneven, badly maintained roads meant that journeys were far from smooth. In addition, highway robbers increased the danger of travelling in this way.The invention of the railway, it would seem simply responded to the changing nature of British society. The British population had been increasing and new towns were formed. A switch from home to factory production also had a huge impact. Goods were produced in greater quantities than ever before and as such needed an adequate transport system to cope with demand.Before the development of rail transport, mines and quarries had regularly used tramways for transporting coal and iron. First used in the 17th Century they had become commonly used in the 18th Century. Mathias (1969, p277) shows how by 1800, 200 miles of tramways had been developed for use in this way.A national railway network did begin to emerge in the first part of the 19th Century, but at what cost? Freeman ((1999, p31) draws attention to how 'the railway movement brought about the most dramatic infringement of private property rights in England since the Civil War'. He points out that because of acts in their favour, railway companies were able to acquire whatever land they wanted. These acts allowed them 'to enter, survey and even evacuate private land situated on a prescribed route' (ibid). Perkin (1970, p82) recognised a growing demand for lawyers and surveyors as being one of the by-products of the railway. They were needed to cope with...

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