The Civil Engineering of Canals and Railways before 1850: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Civil Engineering of Canals and Railways before 1850

1st Edition

Edited by Michael M. Chrimes


416 pages

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Hardback: 9780860787563
pub: 1998-08-27
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Between 1750 and 1850 the British landscape was transformed by a transport revolution which involved engineering works on a scale not seen in Europe since Roman times. While the economic background of the canal and railway ages are relatively well known and many histories have been written about the locomotives which ran on the railways, relatively little has been published on how the engineering works themselves were made possible. This book brings together a series of papers which seek to answer the questions of how canals and railways were built, how the engineers responsible organised the works, how they were designed and what the role of the contractors was in the process.


'The aim of Ashgate's twelve volume series is to bring together collections of important papers on particular topics from scholarly journals, conference proceedings and other hard-to-access sources. This is a wholly laudable objective. Some of the papers in the volume under review [The Civil Engineering of Canals and Railways before 1850] cannot be found even in abundantly-resourced academic libraries. The series opens up, directly or indirectly, debates over the nature of historical evidence which arise from the profoundly different approaches to the past of historians of technology, whose works are principally represented in these volumes, industrial archaeologists and social and economic historians.' Industrial Archaeology Review, Vol. XXI, No. 1 'This is a collection whose sum is greater than its parts. It goes beyond the nuts and bolts of canal and railway construction to connect their technology with business and labor history. Perhaps most significantly, by juxtaposing material on canals and railways in a single volume, it pushes home the central truth that the technology of railway engineering developed directly out of the experience of the canal builders.' Technology and Culture, Vol. 41 'Each chapter is by an expert in his own field and the writing is of an accurate and meticulous nature, as one would expect from the eminent historians who have contributed….Altogether this is a magnificent book, well researched and documented…' The Structural Engineer, vol. 78, no. 19,

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Part One: Canals: Canals and river navigations before 1750, A.W. Skempton; The Waltham pound lock, K.R. Fairclough; Rivers and canals, C. Hadfield; The construction of the Huddersfield narrow canal, 1794-1811: with particular reference to Standedge tunnel, R.B. Schofield; John Pinkerton and the Birmingham canals, S.R. Broadbridge; Managerial organisation on the Caledonian canal, 1803-1822, A. Penfold; Along the water: the genius and the theory. D'Alembert, Condorcet and Bossut and the Picardy canal controversy, P. Redondi; Poverty, distress and disease: labour and the construction of the Rideau canal,1826-1832, W.N.T. Wylie; Hugh McIntosh (1768-1840) national contractor, M.M. Chrimes; Part Two: Railways: Some railway facts and fallacies, C.E. Lee; The Influence of landowners on route selection, F.A. Sharman; England's first rails: a reconsideration, R.S. Smith; The Butterley Company and railway construction, 1790-1830, P.J. Riden; Cast iron edge-rails at Walker colliery, 1798, A.W. Skempton and A. Andrews; Embankments and cuttings on the early railways, A.W. Skempton; The railway navvy - a reassessment, D. Brooke; Railway contractors and the finance of railway development in Britain, H. Pollins; The origin of American railroad technology, 1825-1840, D.H. Stapleton; Tracks and timber, J.H. White; Index.

About the Series

Studies in the History of Civil Engineering

From dams to cathedrals, from water supply to transport systems, and from land drainage to the design and construction of ever larger and more monumental buildings, the impact of civil engineering on human history has been immense. This series sets out to examine key aspects of its history, from antiquity to the early 20th century.

Studies in the History of Civil Engineering focuses on the following areas: the analysis of early structures to discover how ancient or medieval builders used the materials available to them, and the principles upon which they worked; the ideas and practices of design as employed by both engineers and architects; the development of new materials and techniques, from wooden trusses to cast iron and concrete; the investigation of the great engineering projects that began to burgeon with the 18th century, first in Britain, then elsewhere, underpinned by advances in science which provided a new theoretical framework upon which to base the engineering.

These volumes reveal the implications for the history of architecture of choices of material, technique and structure. They aim also to reflect the political and economic constraints which so often shaped what could be achieved, and the inter-relationship between the history of civil engineering and economic history: the engineering was both stimulated by, and made possible the spread of industrialization.

Not least, the series is concerned to examine the lives, attitudes and careers of the men who emerged to form the new profession of the engineer. Studies in the History of Civil Engineering comprises 12 volumes. Each focuses on a particular topic, edited by an expert in that field. They reprint a selection of papers which have proved of particular importance, and which exemplify the current state of knowledge and the historiography. Originally published in wide range of scholarly journals, conference proceedings and the like, many hard to consult, these papers are now reprinted together under hard covers, making them readily accessible, even for non-specialists. Each volume opens with a substantial new introduction by the editor, to assess the field and place the papers in their context, and is fully indexed. The series constitutes an authoritative reference library, not just for those interested in the history of civil engineering, but also those studying economic history and the history of science and, above all, of architecture.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General