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Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World Hardcover – March 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
“Blood, Iron, and Gold reminds us that the railroads did more than just speed up travel or build up national economies. They literally changed the way human beings experienced, thought about and lived their lives. Christian Wolmar’s book should put all high-speed-rail advocates on notice. Trains can return to the American landscape, traveling twice as fast, reprising the social revolution they set off almost two centuries ago."
Library Journal STARRED Review
“[Wolmar’s] work is both a serious history and an adventure story. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the growth and global historical impact of railroads.”
“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.”
Wall Street Journal
“[Wolmar] covers a great deal of territory in "Blood, Iron and Gold," but he keeps the reader engaged by highlighting extraordinary projects like the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway from 1891 to 1904. It connected St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, a distance of almost 6,200 miles. Equally stirring is the saga of Cecil Rhodes and his never-completed Cape-to-Cairo line; and that of Peru's vertiginous Central Railway, which ascends the Andes and passes through the Galera Tunnel, 15,694 feet above sea level. The book also features cameo appearances by such colorful figures as Benito Mussolini, who may or may not have made Italy's trains run on time but who definitely made them run faster and more frequently. Nor does Mr. Wolmar neglect the pop-culture angle: Agatha Christie fans will be sorry to learn that history records no instance of a real-life murder on the Orient Express.”
Dallas Morning News
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Top Customer Reviews
The first part of the book (chapters 1-4) discuss the first railroads (with rails made of wood!), the first steam engines, and their impacts on society, culture, and the political landscape. The way in which railroads have been instrumental in unifying diverse regions is fascinating. I finally understood why we, in the US, have gone from thinking of the various united states as a group of independent, allied political entities to an entire single nation (e.g., it used to be when one said "the Unites States," one used a plural verb as in "the United States are going to..."). Likewise, the same holds true for the very disjointed region - with lots of principalities and countries - that is Germany today. Wolmar very clearly explains how each of these disparate political units had to work closely together to see an ROI on railroad investment.
Part two of the book (chapters 5-10) begins with a continent by continent review of how railways penetrated various nations and the problems involved, from "simple" cross-border coordination activities to massive topographical challenges (the Andes) that even today are staggering in their complexities and tragedies. The section on the attempt to drive a railway through the Amazon is particularly poignant.Read more ›
Of course Wolmar begins with the creation of the first railroads in England, and then follows their construction around the world to include the rest of Europe, Latin American, the United States, Russia, and Africa. Besides discussing the challenges (economic, technical, and political) in their building, he looks at how they were financed, their relationship to their governments, and the impact both had one how and why the railroads were constructed. He also addresses the political, economic, and technical impact the railroads had on their respective countries, and, in Europe's case, how they ultimately linked Europe together. He finishes off the book by addressing the "renaissance" of railroads today, and how they continue to be important in the everyday life of regions and nations.
All-in-all this is an interesting, well written, and easy-to-read social history of railroads. If you like railroads, I recommend this as a change of pace from the usual techo-approach to the subject. If you're a social historian you'll be interested in the impact of railroads across a broad spectrum of economics, politics, and technology.
That gave me an insight in reading this book and how railways literally changed the world back then, long after the Industrial Revolution but before electricity was finally developed. Railroads affected everything then somewhat in the way the Internet does now. The coming of the railroads was, I think, the greatest achievement of the Industrial Revolution, which led to electricity,
Railroad cities across America and the world grew up overnight. Distant markets opened up, Diets changed due to improved transport of foodstuffs. Communications between people and markets were transformed. Commerce grew exponentially; wheat grains and coal and then oil became essential parts of the national commerce.
And not just here in America, but elsewhere. But America's railroad experience was vastly different from the rest of the world's. Here, the railroads were built, financed, and controlled by private business. Elsewhere, Europe especially, governments controlled the railways.
This book is a fair and straightforward account, and has no axe to grind or philosophy to advance. In that, this book stands up without prejudice and tells a very interesting story that most of don't know. Myself included, until now.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is not the definitive history about the importance of railroads in history, but it is a good introduction. Read morePublished 13 months ago by lyndonbrecht
An excellent 1-volume history of the world's railways. Wolmar writes in a typically British style but in no way inhibits his vast understanding of how the railroad came to be the... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Stephen Trusedell
this is an excellent general history of the origins of the world's railways. unfortunately, not all areas referred in the text are covered by the maps, but the maps provided are... Read morePublished on March 10, 2013 by frenchclaude
Although I have read and heard much about the railway, I never appreciated just how much they did change the world till I read this book. Read morePublished on January 14, 2013 by BernardZ
Haven't gotten bored yet and I'm halfway through, I don't need to know much more for you to know it's good.Published on August 13, 2012 by Jenny Hu
This unique, superb book is an overview of the history of railroads - across the world - from the early 19th century to our present age. Read morePublished on May 31, 2012 by Richard Sawyer