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The opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830 marked the beginning of a transport revolution; by the end of the century railways spanned the United States, the vast expanses of Siberia and the length and breadth of Africa and India. This epic history charts their unstoppable progress, examines the far-reaching effects on war and peace, and recaptures both the vision of the pioneers who developed the early railways and the backbreaking labour of the navvies who built them.
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Christian Wolmar is a writer and broadcaster specializing in the social history of railways and transport. He has written for major British newspapers for many years and has contributed to many other publications, including the New York Times and Newsday. He frequently appears on TV and radio as an expert commentator. His most recent books are The Subterranean Railway, a history of the London Underground, the world's oldest system, and Fire & Steam, the story of Britain's railways.From Publishers Weekly:
This spirited, dramatic history of the most important invention of the second millennium celebrates railroads as the central innovation of the industrial revolution, releasing economic and social energies on a stupendous scale. Historian Wolmar (The Great Railway Disaster) chronicles the heroic age of railroad construction in the 19th century, with its mix of epic engineering and horrible exploitation. (The death toll on the trans-Panamanian railroad project included a mass suicide by Chinese workers.) Riding the early railroads, he notes, was almost as harrowing as building them, as passengers braved engine cinders that set their clothes on fire—and sometimes had to get out and push underpowered locomotives up steep grades. The railroads' social impact was equally breathtaking, in Wolmar's telling: it brought city folk fresh milk, out-of-season produce, and commutes to the suburbs; spawned monopolies and spectacular corruption scandals; and played a crucial role in enabling the world wars and the Holocaust. Wolmar explores this fertile subject with a blend of lucid exposition and engaging historical narrative. The result is a fascinating study not just of a transportation system, but of the Promethean spirit of the modern age. 16 pages of color illus.; maps. (Mar. 2)
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