Technological Advance and Innovation: the Diffusion of the Early Steamship in the United Kingdom, 1812-34

By John Armstrong and David Williams, published February 2010


Traditional historiography presents the emergence of steamships and steam navigation as slow and drawn out. Armstrong and Williams challenge this idea, arguing instead for the rapid and widespread diffusion of steamships around Britain in the immediate aftermath of its innovation in the early nineteenth century. Accounts from contemporaries, and the statistical evidence comprised from parliamentary papers and catalogues (to name but two referenced), indicate the steamship’s expeditious dissemination, with year-on-year increases in production and a presence in shipping ports nationwide. The steamship’s facilitation of scheduled journeys, cheap and comfortable passenger travel and market opportunities for a range of cargo cemented it as a new, efficient mode of transport.

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Filed under: English Channel | North Sea | Irish Sea | Other (Nineteenth C)
Subjects include: Shipbuilding & Design

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