- Paperback: 219 pages
- Publisher: University of California Press; 49991st edition (February 6, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0520059298
- ISBN-13: 978-0520059290
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #909,729 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Railway Journey: The Industrialization of Time and Space in the 19th Century 49991st Edition
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Because it made possible rapid movement and shipping across large distances, joining far-off towns to economic and cultural capitals, many people who lived in the early 19th century regarded the railroad as an instrument of progress. Because anyone with the price of a ticket could board a train, regardless of social class, the railroad was also seen as a democratizing technology.
But, Wolfgang Schivelbusch notes in this vivid history of early rail travel, the promise of progress and democracy was swiftly compromised. The railroads became an agency for the concentration of wealth in a few hands, and they created a class of passive consumers who simply got aboard and waited to arrive at their destinations. The railroads, Schivelbusch writes, changed the 19th-century world for good and ill. They helped rewrite the industrializing world's sense of time, for now precise schedules had to be kept; they reinforced a sense of forward-plunging movement into the future; they even introduced the reality of mass disaster, for railroads were always crashing, sometimes taking hundreds of riders to their deaths.
Delving into urban planning, psychology, architecture, and economics, as well as the history of technology, Schivelbusch paints a revealing portrait of the role of the railroad in shaping the 19th-century mind. --Gregory McNamee
This delightful, probing, and very quirky book is, surprisingly, a pioneering work in the sociology and psychopathology of the railway revolution. . . Whats more, its a gas. -- The Village Voice
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I get the feeling he's too willing to dislike modernization, it's one thing to say how some people disliked or were afraid of the train (the "railway spine" disease made me chuckle) but it's quite another thing to blame the railroads for everything from loss of culture to ruining cities. That is a very powerful claim but he does not seem to back it up with any real evidence. I want to see pictures of what the cities looked before and after, some statistics on income, something. You cannot make that claim without some sort of evidence.
As for the alleged social side effects, I don't know how he would know that. I think that's a sweeping generalization even in its best form, and I can't really see how there could be any sort of means to show, definitively, that EVERY city that has a railroad has lost its culture due only to the railroad being there. I can't even imagine what kind of evidence would back that up.
I really like the history part of it, the facts are painstakingly researched and captivating to read
If it were truly a history book I would have given it five stars, easily. But the book is about his theories of time and space and the railroad, so, unfortunately, I can't give him a good rating, because the central purpose of his novel is far too undersupported and weakly argued.
The goal of so many histories of science and technology is to show the connections between the physical, technical world of scientists and engineers and the broader cultural world, and how the connections run both ways. Of course it is usually easy to show how science and technology change culture, but much harder to show profound influences of culture on science and technology. But Schivelbusch does just that, and does so with crisp writing and very clear evidence; his conclusions are often profound, yet it is very hard to take issue with the connections he makes.
Another reviewer recommends Kern's Culture of Time and Space over this book; while Kern takes a much broader view of the connections between culture and science, his work is so loosely constructed that it is hard to take his overreaching conclusions seriously. In particularly, Kern has a very thin understanding of the history of science (especially regarding the technical details), which frequently undermines his narrative. The Railway Journey is far more satisfying; it is a model of how cultural history of science can be done without ignoring the actual history of actual science.