In 1870, a report by a local commissioner in Zhenjiang, a city by the Yangzi River in Jiangsu Province, noted that “the Chinese are learning to appreciate traveling by foreign steamers. Not a few of the passengers who arrive and depart hence are officials, who have so far overcome their bigotry to acknowledge that steamer traveling is eminently satisfactory.” As foreign powers had used steamers in their economic expansion in China during the First Opium War (1839–42), the Chinese had at first associated this mode of transport with imperialism and Western dominance before they became an integral part of passenger and commercial conveyance.
Jesús Mirás and Alberte Martínez
Some years ago, Javier Vidal took stock of the historiography on transport in Spain, noting its main achievements and shortcomings. Here we continue by analyzing the Spanish historiography of this subject published since then, that is, from 2010 to 2012—a productive if brief period in this subfield. Researchers of the Fundación de los Ferrocarriles Españoles have been leaders in the field, through the publication of monographs, the journal Transportes, Servicios y Telecomunicaciones (TsT), and conferences. We hope that the present economic reform policies do not hinder its long and fruitful career.
Let us begin with the jokey new term ‘ferrosexuals’, meaning people who experience wanton fetishistic desire for trains—also more romantically labelled ‘buffer kissers’. When I was a lass too young to have heard of the Mile-high Club, ferrosexuals were called ‘train-spotters’ and their ardour was seen as innocuous, if pitiably nerdy. Does the new term mean that machines for travel are now seen as sexy, because we live in increasingly sexualised societies? Or does it mean that an underlying sexual charge in people’s interest in trains is finally being made explicit and taken seriously? We do not know. And the reason we do not know is that scholarly work—particularly historicised work—has yet to be done on sexualities’ many interfaces with transport and mobility.
This article analyzes the articulation between mobility and technology within life trajectories marked by migration, exile, and the search for economic achievement. It does so by focusing on a Nigerian couple’s (attempted) itinerary of return migration from Italy to Nigeria, and on the tensions that surround the role played by a specific transport technology, the shipping container, within this process. It highlights how, throughout the itinerary that brings the container from Italy to Nigeria, its social meaning and that of the cargo stored in it become the center of a series of tense interactions, in which diverging imaginaries about transnational mobility, migration, and life abroad come to the fore, and provoke radical transformations in the life of the people involved in the itinerary of the container itself.
Michael K. Bess
The historical literature on mobility and transport in Mexico reveals the impact of infrastructure development on the country’s economic and political modernization in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From 1876, when Porfirio Díaz first ascended to the presidency, until the eve of the 1910 revolution, Mexico built nearly twenty-five thousand kilometers of railroads. Initially launched by foreign-dominated consortiums, and later centralized under the state-owned Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (Mexican National Railways), the burgeoning rail network linked the country’s major cities and ports together, facilitating regional industrial development and export-oriented economic growth. Following a decade of armed conflict, the postrevolutionary state faced the task of rebuilding devastated transportation infrastructure. Beginning under President Plutarco Elías Calles (1924–28), the national government repaired and built thousands of miles of railroads and motor highways, relying on a combination of domestic taxes and foreign-direct investment to fund the work. This policy improved regional and national mobility and contributed to a thirty-year period of robust economic growth, called the “Mexican Miracle,” from 1940 to 1970.
Michael F. Wagner
Automobilism—the culture of individual mobility based on private transportation—is promoted by leisure, consumption, the construction of infrastructure, and the provision of service by auto clubs. It promises to carry the driver away on a voyage of discovery with narratives of adventurousness and dreams of the good life on the road. It was from the outset an international movement with national repercussions and variations on a theme. Basically, however, the rise of European automobile culture accompanied the rise of consumption for leisure, which in turn evolved into a consumption regime of mediation and consumption junctions based on individual mobility and tourism.
For countries that are not leaders in modernization and technology, discussions of transportation history frequently conclude by acknowledging insufficient research on this topic. Indeed, this was my first impression when committing to this assignment. Nevertheless, once I started to review and gather material, my findings exceeded my initial expectations.
Using Peter Merriman's recent book as a trigger, this review-cum-polemic argues that mobility history is facing a scholarly crisis in the midst of other mobility-related fields that are blossoming. The core of the diagnosis is a lack of debate on a central question that is painfully missing. The article suggests as a remedy the opening up of the field along the paths of transmodality, transdisciplinarity, and especially transnationality. The national bias of much historical scholarship is a hindrance to its future blooming.
Volkert Ebert and Phillip-Alexander Harter, Europa ohne Fahrplan? Anfänge und Entwicklung der gemeinsamen Verkehrspolitik in der Europäischen Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft (1957–1985) (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2010) (Reihe Vierteljahrschrift für Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Beihefte 211), 278 pp., €52
Christian Henrich-Franke, Gescheiterte Integration im Vergleich: Der Verkehr— ein Problemsektor gemeinsamer Rechtsetzung im Deutschen Reich (1871– 1879) und der Europäischen Wirtschaftsgemeinschaft (1958–1972) (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag 2012) (Reihe: Studien zur Geschichte der Europäischen Integration), 434 pp., €56
Andra B. Chastain
Nearly three decades ago, a French-trained urban planner remarked that “getting around any Latin American city is a true quotidian feat” for travelers contending with “the subways of Caracas, the packed lines of the Mexico metro, the Santiago journeys without any foreseeable destination, the crammed La Paz truffis [cars with fixed routes], the dangerous Lima micro[buses], and the ups-and-downs of central Quito.” While this description evokes the colorful spectrum of urban mobility in the region, it also sums up the anxieties of many postwar observers of Latin American cities: urban transportation seemed to be in crisis. With vehicle shortages, traffic congestion, air pollution, and sporadic social protests, public transportation tested Latin American metropolises since at least the postwar era.