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The Victorian Communication Revolution


Module description

Of all the epochal changes occurring during the long reign of Queen Victoria, one of the most dramatic was the proliferation of new means of communication. As the British world expanded into a vast empire, the mother country itself as well as its dominions were criss-crossed by ever-growing networks of rotary presses, steamships, railways, submarine cables, telephone lines, wireless telegraphy, and, not least, a postal service that grew with the times. People as well as data could now travel to the far corners of the world at a speed and with a level of security that seemed to many contemporaries to be little short of magical.

This module will examine the nature of this revolution and explore its social, economic and technological contexts. We shall pay particular attention to the ways in which the new modes of transport and exchange of information influenced literature, science, culture and business practices, and reshaped popular concepts of time, leisure, geography, national power and human potential. Readings will be drawn from contemporary records, scholarly analyses and literary texts. The module will focus on Britain and the British Empire, but some American and continental material will be used for comparison and contrast.