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Engines of Change: The Railroads That Made India

Overview

The former Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire, India remains, by any measure, a major economic and political actor on the world scene. Without her extensive railway network—completed against all odds by her British colonial masters—it is impossible to imagine what might have become of the diverse lands and peoples of the subcontinent. These railway networks brought them together as a colony; these networks fostered the nationalism that would be Britain's downfall. This rail network both remade the physical ...

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Overview

The former Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire, India remains, by any measure, a major economic and political actor on the world scene. Without her extensive railway network—completed against all odds by her British colonial masters—it is impossible to imagine what might have become of the diverse lands and peoples of the subcontinent. These railway networks brought them together as a colony; these networks fostered the nationalism that would be Britain's downfall. This rail network both remade the physical landscape and brought social-cultural cohesion to a diverse and wide-ranging populace. It would be common rail travel that Gandhi would employ to reach the masses. From its romantic mystique to its dangerous reality, it is rail travel today that keeps vital social, cultural, economic and political forces moving.

India's railroad history serves as a unique lens to her larger story of triumph over adversity. By 1905, India had the world's fourth largest railway network—a position it retains in the early 21st century. The railroads were at the organizational and technological center of many of the inter-related economic, political, social, cultural, and ecological transformations that produced modern India through, and out of, its colonial past. In addition to this vast technical achievement, and (in keeping with the series focus), there is an equally important and wide-sweeping human-interest tale to be told with evocative vignettes of the triumph of the human spirit (one billion strong!) in the face of great adversity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The Indian railroad system is among the most fascinating in the world, says Kerr, a retired history professor, and he recounts its birth and growth since the 1850s, with an emphasis on the impact it had on the political and economic development of the country. For the first century, until 1947, it was a colonial railroad system designed to serve the imperial occupation, and has continued to be shaped by the colonial legacy after independence and partition, he explains."

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Reference & Research Book News

"[A] highly readable, thoroughly researched analysis of the development and impact of railways, their technology, and their people on the Indian subcontinent….Just as the best way to see India is by train even today, Kerr's book is the best way to grasp the historical saga of the fire vehicle and its contributions to the economic, political, social , and cultural integration of India."

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Technology and Culture

". . . an excellent overview of the history of the railways of India from an economic and social perspective."

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Socialist Standard

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Product Details

Meet the Author

IAN J. KERR is a retired Professor of History and Senior Scholar in the Department of History at the University of Manitoba. He is also a Professorial Research Associate in the Department of History at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. His publications include Railways in Modern India (2001) and Building the Railways of the Raj (1995).

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