Social Change and Railways


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Railways & Social Changes in the 19th Century

The First Railway CoachTHE steamship, the railway-train, the electric telegraph, the newspaper, and cheap postage (all occupied with facilitating travel or the interchange of commodities and ideas) have influenced modern life probably more than any other agencies. 

The steamboat Clermont was plying in America on the Hudson, in [1807], but not until [1812], when Henry Bell launched the Comet on the Clyde, did Britain’s course in steam navigation begin, and it was only in [1838] that a ship crossed the Atlantic by steam-power alone, a feat that had been declared impossible.  In [1814] George Stephenson constructed an engine, nicknamed Puffing Billy, from its noise, and showed that the steam locomotive was possible; by [1825] the Stockton and Darlington Railway was carrying both passengers and goods, and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in [1830].  Stephenson boasted that it should be cheaper for a workman to ride in a coach than to wear out energy and shoeleather in walking, and he kept his word; it was not long before a network of railways made travel easy.  Henceforth bulky articles were readily carried both by land and sea; commerce expanded, and Britain became more than ever the workshop of the world.


Excerpt from The British Nation by George McKinnon Wrong – 1903


Further Reading and External Links

Visit the Victoria and Albert Museum for more on Social Changes in the 19th Century

Find out more about the British Railway Network

History of Rail Transport on Wikipedia

History Learning Site and Railway History