The runaway train: The railways and social anxiety in Victorian Britain
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AbstractThis essay examines whether the concerns and anxieties expressed over the railways in nineteenth-century Britain are in reality an expression of the wider concerns of the time. The Chester to Holyhead line, including the branch line from Llandudno to Blaenau, was taken as the basis for the essay as it encapsulates many of the points under consideration. Chapter one explores the physical problems of the railway looking at the apprehension over the speed of the locomotives and lack of control over expansion of the network as it destroyed housing and seized land. Social expansion was a source of concern epitomised by the rise of the new ‘middle class’. Wealth was generated rather than inherited allowing the permeation of class boundaries. Technology became more complex and less comprehensible to the people using it. The apparently unstoppable nature of the railway was causing anxiety across society. Chapter two examines the cultural impact of the railway, including the mobility of much larger proportions of the population and the incursion of mass numbers of people into areas previously considered the territory of the upper classes. The introduction of ‘Railway’ time across the country was also studied as well as the effect on language, culture and the economy in Wales. Chapter three looks at literature, with particular reference to Wordsworth, Dickens, Braddon, Gissing and Trollope and how the railways influenced their writing. Examination was made of the expansion of printing and the availability of cheaper literature and the effects this had on the structure of the reading public. Religious symbolism was explored and the use of the train as metaphor for modernity.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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