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The Cable: The Wire that Changed the World Paperback – May 28, 2007

4 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

An import from Britain, Cookson's account of the first transatlantic telegraph is more phlegmatic, and perhaps less dramatized, than historian John Steele Gordon's A Thread across the Ocean (2002). Whenever the cable laying goes awry, Cookson notes the fact, whereas Gordon shades the event with the heave of the ship or the snap of the parting cable. But in its quiet manner, Cookson's effort is just as appealing a saga. Assigning credit for the ultimate success in 1866 is one of her narrative's organizing principles; another is the financing of the endeavor. A chance encounter in a New York hotel lobby set it in motion in 1854, when a Newfoundlander telegraph engineer (Frederic Gisborne) was put in touch with a rich paper manufacturer (Cyrus Field) seeking a new world to conquer. Field persuaded fellow financiers to put up the cash, but they ran out of money by 1858 and yielded the project to British interests--though Field was an ever-present proselytizer. Handsome illustrations add value to Cookson's exposition on a popular topic. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Handsome illustrations add value to Cookson's exposition on a popular topic.” -- Booklist --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Tempus (May 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752439030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752439037
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,243,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Atlantic Cable, one of the great engineering feats of the Victorian era, is often thought of as an American project. While it's true that the impetus came from New York merchant Cyrus Field, and Field remained a constant force behind the cable for the 12 years it took for it to succeed, the engineering, manufacture, and laying of the cable were, for the most part, conducted by British companies. It's curious, then, that most histories of the cable have been written by Americans.
Gill Cookson, a British historian and researcher who has previously written articles on submarine telegraphy, as well as the definitive biography of cable engineer Fleeming Jenkin, is well-qualified to redress this balance with her new book, The Cable. Published in time for the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the project, The Cable tells the story of the Atlantic Cable, from the first vague proposals in the 1840s, through the pioneering days of the 1850s, to the eventual success of the 1860s. Written for a general audience, the book is a lively narrative of the failures and frustrations, the agonizing delays caused by financial, political, and technical problems, and the ultimate success of 1866, establishing the communications link between the Americas and Europe which by gradual evolution became today's fiber optic network circling the world.
As well as being a readable and entertaining history of the events, the book puts into context the development of materials, equipment, and cable-laying technique, the British and American financial and political climates which influenced the laying of the cable, and the persistence of Cyrus Field in seeing the project to its conclusion. With numerous black and white illustrations, and a full-color 32-page section of reproductions of early drawings and photographs of cable manufacture and laying, The Cable is perhaps the best view so far of this "audacious endeavour".
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The Transatlantic cable was a topic that I knew of, but not much about. As I read "The Cable", I realized that this was as big in the mid 19th Century as the Moon Landing was in the mid 20th. I had hoped to feel more of this excitement in "The Cable", but then that's me. It is well-researched, well-written, and brings to the fore some of the great yet unheralded geniuses of the era. I just felt I wanted more detail about the technical end, and the illustrations could have used a larger-size volume.
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I was a little surprised at the lack of books on this topic, which I think is a rather important technological step for humankind. I think this book gives a fair description of events, it seems unbiased and fairly complete from what I can tell. However, the text is a bit dry and there isn't much prose or literary freedom with the text - not much pizzazz with the descriptions. I know it's a historical text, and from events far enough back that there likely isn't much information available for the author to work with. But I've read a fair number of historical non-fiction books and it can be done. I also wish there was a tad bit more technical discussion as to the challenges they faced and how they fixed it - you really don't get much of that. But I am a scientist so I have that bias. So overall it's a decent reference book but don't expect to get too engrossed with the story.
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