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The Engine of Change: Exploring the cultural challenges of railway development in early Victorian England by Heather Auton

The development of rail transport in Victorian England was undertaken at a staggering pace. Between the first passenger train in 1825, and 1850, some 6,000 miles of track were laid, and trains were achieving speeds of up to 80mph. The dramatically transformative effect of such change was not only economic, but societal and cultural, challenging perceptions of time, space and the autonomy of the individual. The railway was represented both as an example of progress through British vision and expertise in engineering, but also as a ravening monster, claiming lives, destroying the landscape and creating financial ruin. By examining J. M. W. Turner’s iconic railway painting Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway (1844), and a passage from the ‘canonical railway novel’, Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son (1846–7), a range of responses to the integration of rail travel into the Victorian consciousness will be explored, together with the influences of Turner’s Romantic heritage and the Realism of Dickens.

Date created: 
Friday, May 24, 2019
Attribution for this resource:
The Engine of Change: Exploring the cultural challenges of railway development in early Victorian England by Heather Auton, All rights reserved.
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