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The paper explores processes of transnational network building in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. The first section reviews several relevant literatures. It concludes that historiographies of Europe often recognize the pivotal importance of transnational network building, but fail to analyse network developments as well as their entanglement with wider historical processes. Specialized infrastructure studies exist in economic and technological history, but have a distinct (sub)national focus. The networking of Europe has not been investigated. The second section presents a preliminary narrative of transnational network building in the 19th and 20th century. It highlights the relationship between network building and political events in different eras, as well as different types of ambiguities or tensions. The conclusion suggests a number of topics for further research.
PUBLISHED AS: Erik van der Vleuten and Arne Kaijser, ‘Networking Europe’, History
and Technology 21 (1) (2005), 21-48
Erik van der Vleuten and Arne Kaijser
The paper explores processes of transnational network building in Europe in the 19
centuries. Section 1 reviews several relevant literatures. It concludes that
historiographies of Europe often recognize the pivotal importance of transnational
network building, but fail to analyse network developments as well as their entanglement
with wider historical processes. Specialised infrastructure studies exist in economic and
technological history, but have a distinct (sub)national focus. The networking of Europe
has not been investigated. Section 2 presents a preliminary narrative of transnational
network building in 19
and 20
century. It highlights the relationship between network
building and political events in different eras, as well as different types of ambiguities or
tensions. The conclusion suggest a number of topics for further research.
Keywords: European history; European integration; infrastructures; Large Technical
Systems; network society.
In 1986 two of the most colourful and strong-willed politicians in post-war
Europe, Margaret Thatcher and François Mitterand, signed a bilateral treaty about the
construction of a tunnel under the English Channel. In 1994 the fifty-km long
connection was formally inaugurated and train traffic under the Channel began.
Britain was tied directly to Europe for the first time since the end of the last
glaciation. John Neerhout Jr., chief executive of the project, proudly portrayed the
Tunnel in a prestigious Gould distinguished lecture on Technology and the Quality of
Life as one of the great technological accomplishments and civilization milestones of
this era” that also stands as a “symbol of European unity.
The European
Commission, the executive body of the European Union, contends that the Channel
Tunnel sends out “signals to the citizens of the European Union that European
integration is progressing” and illustrates how trans-European networks constitute a
key instrument for economic, social and territorial cohesion.”
The Union’s obligation
to promote trans-European networks for these purposes is formulated in the Union’s
founding document, the Maastricht Treaty (1992).
From a European point of view, there are other, less triumphant sides to the
Channel Tunnel story. Neerhout reminds us that the tunnel had “one of the longest
gestation periods in history.” Reformulated, the Channel tunnel was a failure, a
missing link or ‘non-link’ in Europe for more than a century. To contemporaries the
non-link between the world’s leading commercial powers, only thirty kilometres apart
but practically separated by sea, seemed an anachronism in the progress of
civilisation. Opposition to integration blocked a number of initiatives. The first tunnel
proposal dates from 1750, and joint Anglo-French preparations in the early 1800s fell
victim to the Napoleonic wars. In the early 1880s drilling had started on both sides of
the Channel when flooding problems and British military protests halted the project.
General Wolseley expressed the military concern: "no matter what fortifications and
defences ... there would always be the peril of some Continental enemy seizing the
Tunnel exit by surprise, and all the commercial advantage ... could not outweigh such
a risk.”
A more recent attempt in the mid 1970s was opposed not by the military but
by British trade unions, arguing that the project primarily benefited the well to do.
Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson needed unions for a new economic policy and
sacrificed the tunnel project.
When the missing link in the European transport network was finally built a
decade later, the stakes were not primarily ‘European’. Both Thatcher and Mitterand
used the tunnel project to reverse economic decline that marked England and North-
western France in the mid-1980s. Still today it is unclear what its European character
entails. While the European Commission appropriates it to legitimise a policy of
promoting trans-European networks for transport, energy, and telecommunications,
Eurosceptics rather disconnect the tunnel from the emerging European Union: “if one
were to judge by the Commission’s report ... cross-border transport and free
movement of goods in Europe could not exist without the E.U. Needless to say,
governments are capable of freely cooperating ...without needing to surrender their
powers to an unelected, supranational authority.”
To guarantee free flows of people and goods, the governments involved
have a legal obligation to keep the tunnel open. However, the new link also
created a new vulnerability. French mass transit workers on strike blocked the
tunnel in 1995. So did French dockers in 1998, protesting against job losses
following abolishment of duty-free sales. Two years later anti-riot police were
in place when French farmers tried to block the tunnel, but blocking the Paris-
Calais motorway proved just as effective.
In addition, the tunnel produced some unexpected flows. In March 2001
nine Romanian Gipsies, including a 3-year old girl and two pregnant women,
risked their lives hiding under a Eurostar train in a freight compartment. In
February that year, an Iraqi refugee died and another broke both legs after
jumping 20 feet from a bridge onto a moving train heading for Britain. Between
November 2001 and November 2002 no less than 1,733 asylum seekers were
taken off trains at the British side. British government and European
Commission pressures on France and the Eurotunnel company resulted in
double skin fences, over a hundred guards, heartbeat-monitoring equipment
inside the tunnel, and the closing of a Red Cross asylum camp on the French
side. Notably, the European Commission interpreted the French failure to stop
refugee flows as a breach in European rules concerning the free movement of
goods, as it led to the slowdown and cancelling of freight services.
In the name
of Europe some kinds of trans-border flows are supported at high cost, while
others are vigorously prevented.
The story of the Channel Tunnel illustrates two important observations. First,
transnational linkages and networks have been priorities for policymakers for
centuries. Apart from individual projects, politicians, philosophers and engineers have
broadly discussed the effects of linking people and societies across natural or political
borders by means of network technologies ever since the Enlightenment.
politicians in the Ottoman and Soviet empires, the Third Reich, as well as individual
nation states actively used network technologies to build and strengthen their
economies and societies. And preceding the European Union, political bodies such as
the League of Nations and the United Nations Economic Committee for Europe
(UNECE) stressed the role of transnational network building for creating a peaceful
and prosperous Europe. It is due time, then, to include network technologies in the
historical narratives of the shaping of Europe. Within the research programme
Tensions of Europe: Technology and the Making of Europe, one of the research
teams called “Networking Europe” has been investigating the forging of transnational
linkages in the 19
and 20
centuries. This article reports its preliminary findings.
Second, the tunnel example reveals multiple tensions. It suggests that
network building could be highly contested and that political negotiations can
fail the tunnel was a non-link for more than two centuries. There were
alternatives, such as improving ferry services or building a bridge. When the
tunnel was finally constructed it involved skilful political manoeuvring and
multiple agendas of the European Community as well as national and
regional/local players. After its completion, there have been tensions regarding
the flows through the tunnel and the very interpretation of the tunnel as a
‘European’ or bilateral project. And the ideology of free movement of goods,
people, and information contrasts with a policy of enabling some flows while
preventing others. The Channel Tunnel also proves that transnational
connections were created before the European Union started pushing for such
links in the early 1990s.
These tensions are not surprising. Historians of technology have amply
demonstrated that sociotechnical change is not a straightforward, rational
process, but a messy, negotiated, and often contested process that is affected by
many contextual factors. It is indeed “full of contradictions, laden with human
folly, saved by occasional benign deeds, and rich with unintended
consequences,” as Thomas P. Hughes formulates it. Others speak of
‘ambiguities’ or ‘tensions’.
To be sensitive to such tensions is the historian of
technology’s trade; they should be included in any narrative on the networking
of Europe.
This article contains three parts. First, we search for points of departure in
the existing literature on network technology developments in Europe in the 19
and 20
centuries. Second, we will suggest a preliminary narrative of the
networking of Europe, situating the case studies conducted in the Networking
Europe project in a broader context. We shall take particular notice of dominant
tendencies as well as types of tensions within those tendencies. Third, we shall
propose directions for further research.
The work is narrowed down in several ways. First, we focus upon
transnational linking and delinking processes, that is, network building in
Europe that interconnect states or have a supranational meaning. Having worked
earlier with the development of network technologies or Large Technical
Systems on a national level (including cross-national comparisons) we
perceived the study of transnational networksso important to politiciansas a
white spot” in our discipline. We know of only one other programme that
seriously tried to place the history of transnational networks on the research
agenda. It was set up by economic historians, produced conference proceedings,
and concluded that the subject is of eminent importance yet largely forgotten.
Much more research is needed.
Second, we define transnational network technologies as geographically
expanded, materially integrated structures that cross national boundaries. They
include transport, energy, and communication systems. As historians of
technology know, it can be profitable to study such networks as Large Technical
Systems, that is, as systems of interrelated components of technical and non-
technical nature including elements that are often labelled as organisational,
institutional, managerial, legal, etc., manipulated and juxtaposed by privileged
actors called system (or network) builders.
Some ‘LTS’ historians even define
their research subject in sociotechnical terms, but there is no consensus on doing
so. We see approaches fostered in the Large Technical Systems field of research
as privileged entries into the study of network technologies.
Third, we assume that the complex shaping of European societies was
recorded in material infrastructures, which, due to their obduracy and life span,
continued to structure European society building with all its contradictions.
‘Networking Europe’ thus refers to a simultaneous transnational network and
society building in Europe. However, while the current state of research allows
us to profitably investigate such interactions for nation states
, it is too early to
address this interaction to a satisfactory degree for the European case. Presently
we focus upon processes of transnational network building and their context of
major political developments.
Finally, the term ‘Europe’ itself is unstable and contested. It has different
meanings for different historical and present actors in different nations and
academic disciplines. Even the facts of geography do not offer a way out. The
choice of delineating natural borders may be unclear (particularly to the East)
and politically conditioned
, and besides, network technologies may be
designed exactly to penetrate and overcome such borders. Moreover, economic
geographers may see yet a different Europeequated with Western Europe, or
including parts of Russia east of the Urals, while excluding scarcely populated
zones in northern Scandinavia.
We shall employ the concept of Europe in a
flexible and practical manner. In the literature review we include publications
that explicitly address ‘Europe.’ In the narrative presented afterwards, we
follow the networks described by historical actors as well as researchers
participating in the Networking Europe project.
Europe and infrastructures: a review
Our topic, transnational infrastructure building in relation to transnational
society building in Europe in the 19
and 20
centuries, led us to search the
existing literature in two main directions. We searched the historiography of
Europe for references to transnational infrastructure building. In addition, we
searched for infrastructure studies in specialized fields of enquiry, most
prominently economic and technological history. The sheer amount of literature
warrants a disclaimer. Even publications on infrastructure history, the field in
which we both worked for a number of years, are too numerous for a complete
review. No surprise, the amount of publications (and languages) addressing the
century history of Europe forces us to give up any illusion of a
representative review. Our observations are based upon selected readings, but
we have tried to include canonical publications in different fields.
Historiographies of Europe
According to a recent review, the historiography of Europe has at least three
overall forms.
A first form, dominant particularly before the First World War
but still encountered today, portrays the history of Europe as the history of
European nation states, and is of less importance to this review. A second form
termed ‘European History’ conceives of Europe as something more than the
sum of European states, but remains difficult to define. For A. J. P. Taylor
European History is whatever the historian wants it to be” as long as it relates
to the area “we call Europe,” the extent of which is, however, unclear. Norman
Davies concludes “it is the same with European history as with a camel. The
practical approach is not to try and define it, but to describe it.
Compared to the prominence and social implications of transnational
infrastructures for politicians and citizens throughout Europe, European history
handbooks and journals pay little attention to the development of transnational
infrastructures. Online indexes of the European History Quarterly (SAGE,
1970-), Contemporary European History (Cambridge University Press, 1991-)
and the European Review of History (Routledge, 1994-) reveal hardly any
articles on infrastructures, although some deal with technology. Incidentally, the
majority of articles address nation states within Europe rather than transnational
European history handbooks at least note the importance of infrastructure
changes for the history of Europe. Davies’ above-mentioned monumental
history of Europe (1996) is illustrative of defying a monodisciplinary approach
and addressing politics, cultural movements, and socio-economic trends.
Among the latter the paramount importance of network technologies like roads,
railroads, electric power, and communication systems is repeatedly noted.
Inland communications were crucial to the industrial revolution, while
locomotives, gasworks, and dynamos were symbols of expanding European
power in the 19
century. Post-war North Sea oil and gas discoveries reduced
dependence on foreign imports, while high-speed trains, autobahns, Alpine and
Channel tunnels, and large bridges closed ‘missing links in a unified network.’
Yet, in contrast with their asserted importance, these events receive only a few
paragraphs in a work of more than 1,300 pages. Main inventions and dates are
mentioned, but there is no analysis.
The same applies to other books in this genre such as Eugen Weber’s
modern history of Europe (1971). In a later book, Peasants into Frenchmen
(1976) Weber described the pivotal role of roads in French nation building. In
his European history handbook Weber suggests a similar thesis: “the transport
revolution played a major part not only in the economic but in the political
history of Europe,” affecting the standardisation of time and the demise of
regional cultures and local markets. However, this intriguing observation is not
backed by analysis, and a beautiful map of expanding European railroads is
used only for illustration.
There are exceptions, of course; in his magnum opus
on Europe around 1900 (1967; Eng. trans. 1978), the Dutch champion of
‘integral historiography’ Jan Romein narrated the geopolitical turmoil following
German expansionism through the lens of the Berlin-Baghdad railway and
telegraph projects. Still, the narratives generally do not systematically include
(transnational) infrastructure building.
A third form, European integration history, devotes scant attention to transnational
networks. Again, there is not consensus upon the definition of the field, although the
main subject seems to be the European Union and its predecessors.
The Journal of
European Integration History (Nomos, 1995-) publishes studies on ‘all aspects of
European integration’, although political institutions and cultural issues, such as
identity formation, dominate. Furthermore, books addressing cultural integration may
not refer to network technologies at all.
Canonical works on European institution
building always mention politicians’ interests in transnational network building, but
rarely expand on the topic in any detail.
In some cases, they may explicitly note the
importance of networks but exclude them from their domain of study. Richard
Griffiths, editor of a number of books on European integration, finds “solid grounds
for pointing out that ‘integration’ is not a set of treaties or organisational frameworks
but the degree to which politics, economies and societies of nation states were
enmeshed, or integrated, at a more fundamental level.”
Griffiths mentions transport
infrastructures as an example, but they remain excluded from the narrative.
A fourth field worth noting here may be called globalisation studies, which are
multidisciplinary in scope. Again, the importance of infrastructures is often stated but
seldom investigated. Immanuel Wallerstein’s famous work on the expanding ‘world
system’ (1974-1989), that is, an expanding European system, observes that the size of
the world economy is primarily a function of transport and communications.
Yet he
takes infrastructural change largely for granted and does not analyse it. The pivotal
role of network technologies shaping transnational societies is clear in the work of
Manuel Castells (1996-1998), who coined the term ‘Network Society’ to stress that
ICT networks and the global restructuring of production, work, financing, and crime
went hand in hand. But again, the development and role of infrastructures in these
processes is only briefly sketched. Calling for explicit emphasis on the spatial
dimension of globalisation, the work of David Held et al. (1999) seems more
promising. The work includes infrastructures as one of four dimensions to map the
organizational profile of globalisation, yet infrastructural technologies still seem to
fall from the skies; their development and entanglement with social processes is not
analysed. Finally, the Journal of World History (University of Hawaii Press, 1990-)
includes issues as cross-cultural technology transfer and world trade, but so far does
not address network technology developments.
However, we should mention two notable exceptions. The geographer Peter
Hugill has devoted two books (1993, 1999) to describing the infrastructural logic of
the progress of capitalism and the changing world system in the last 500 years. We
also want to highlight the Belgian sociologist Mattelart (1994, 1996, 2000), who
traced an idea-history of what we would call the co-construction of societies and
infrastructures, from nascent ideas of political economy in the late 17
century, via
the network ideologies of Saint Simonians in the 19
century, to current debates on
globalisation and infrastructures.
Economic and technological history
The development of infrastructures merits more investigation in economic history
and, of course, in the history of technology. Both fields inspired initiatives to study
transnational networks in the 1990s (see below). In this section we shall discuss the
scholarship dealing with network technologies prior to those projects.
To start with, handbooks on the economic history of Europe normally recognize
the importance of network technologies. “Of all the industries developed by
Europeans in the century before 1914, none had a more dramatic, yet lasting effect on
the growth of a world economy than European improvements in transport and
communications,” notes the Fontana Economic History of Europe. However,
“information on land transport has to be sought in the histories of individual
Indeed economic histories of Europe resemble the first type of
historiography of Europe mentioned above a historiography of European nations.
They typically offer a chapter on transport infrastructures, mention major inventions
(steel steamships, locomotives) in leading countries (Great Britain in particular), and
systematically juxtapose transport network developments by country.
We learn little
about transnational connections and disconnections, although accompanying maps
may in fact illustrate the development of pan-European networks. The majestic
Cambridge Economic History of Europe, published in 8 volumes (1963-1978),
contains a large chapter on transport with a section on ‘the era of transcontinentals.’
This section, however, is disappointingit notes the ‘piercing of the Alps’ by
railways in half a page and devotes more attention to the American transcontinentals
and the Trans-Siberian railway (1891-1903).
Closely tied to economic history is the field of transport history. Ville (1990)
distinguishes between an “antiquarian” school, producing numerous case studies, and
an “econometric” school.
Mergér et al. (1995) provide a brief historiographical
survey of the latter.
After the Second World War, development economists posited
strategic investment in infrastructures as a pathway to economic growth. Their
writings ignited a long debate with quantitative studies on social savings, social
returns on investment, forward and backward linkages of infrastructural
developments, and so on. According to Mergér et al. this ‘first cliometric wave’ of
network studies had several biases. It focused nearly exclusively on railways (and
occasionally on ocean and inland navigation) at the expense of other networks, and
was concerned with investment effects without developing an understanding of
network development. Moreover, measuring contributions to nation states’ GDP it
normally chose a national framework of analysis. A list of obstacles to transnational
analysis includes perceptions of networks as tools for nation building, national
sources and languages, the predominance of national funding, and the lack of
historiographies of international organisations involved in transnational linking.
The latter point may be partly true; some international actors deliberately
downplayed their role because as for instance the first UNECE Executive Secretary,
Gunnar Myrdal, argued they did ‘practical and effective’ work in a time when
working for East-West linkages was considered ‘almost subversive’.
Still, there are
a few publications on international network building organisations, but these have so
far not been picked up by economic (and technological) historians.
A third approach to (mainly transport-) networks emerged in the 1990s and took
the perspective of institutional economics. Underlining that the expanding economies
in Europe and the U.S. are “hard to imagine without ... transport and
communications” and that “transport history in a wide sense is cardinal in economic
history research”, their studies on regulation and governance still seem to privilege
the national framework of analysis and railway networks.
All these approaches privilege the national framework of analysis. This applies
also to a few monographs on the economic history of transport in Europe that have
appeared in the 1990s
, and is confirmed by recent reviews on the historiography of
specific networks.
Furthermore, looking back at 50 years of the Journal of
Transport History (1953-), which developed from British transport history and by and
large followed the trends in economic history, Mom observes a similar predominance
of the (sub)national framework of analysis dominated by British cases. Only recently
did the journal express its aim to embrace a wider array of approaches and topics that
originated and developed in another field, the history of technology.
There are no handbooks on European technological history the existing
handbooks either deal with ‘Western’ or global technological history, but network
technologies have attracted plenty of attention in the history of technology. Still, in
the early 1980s Thomas P. Hughes and others criticised the history of technology for
a focus upon artefacts (the machine, the light bulb, the car, the locomotive, the
telephone, the computer) at the expense of the larger ‘systems’ of which these are
Indeed, the sections on network technologies in standard reference works
centre around the invention and improvements of vehicles, locomotives, rail building,
signalling equipment, power generators, etc. rather than network development.
so-called Large Technical Systems research field was set up with systems, not
artefacts, as its unit of analysis; their societal importance and sociotechnical character
warrant specialised academic scrutiny.
Although the LTS field is not
institutionalised as much as some imagine, it inspired a large and still growing
number of studies on network technologies, and became the most important reference
point for network studies within the history of technology.
Methodologically, this and related fields (sometimes jointly referred to as
sociohistorical technology studies) developed a vocabulary aiming at analysing the
simultaneous shaping of network technologies and societies in their complexities; it
avoids universalistic categories as ‘technology’ and ‘society’ that may obscure how
many actors, ideas, negotiations, and conflicts helped shape sociotechnical systems.
LTS studies, notes the economic historian Louis Galambos, ‘humanized’
infrastructure studies as carried out in economic history.
As noted above, we
maintain such a sensitivity for network technologies’ societal importance as well as
their ambiguous and contested character in the narrative of 20
century Europe.
However, with regard to their geographical focus, the main body of LTS literature
suffers from a similar (sub)national bias as economic history studies on network
Rich countries such as the U.S., Britain, France, Germany, the
Netherlands, and the Nordic countries are clearly over-represented. Although there are
a number of cross-national comparisons,
the study of transnational infrastructures in
Europe is largely unexplored. Inspired by recent political developments in Nordic and
European integration, a few recent articles may help open up the issue.
New points of departure
Acknowledging the limited scope of this survey, we conclude that
historiographies of Europe often state the importance of network technologies but fail
to analyse their shaping or entanglement with broader historical developments.
Specialized infrastructure studies within economic and technological history suffer
from a (sub)national bias.
There is a gap to fill: it is high time that transnational
network building is integrated into narratives of the shaping of economies, spaces, and
societies in 20
century Europe. We will come back to this issue in the final section
where we suggest directions for further research. Here we want to shortly present
three initiatives set up in the 1990s aiming to address this gap and place transnational
network building in 19
and 20
century Europe on the research agendas of economic
and technological historians.
The International Economic History Association’s 10th International Congress
(1990) dealt prominently with national network technologies.
In the next congress
(1994) a research group explored the history of transnational networks in Europe.
Conference proceedings, edited by Merger, Carreras, and Giuntini, were published
(mainly in French) in 1994 and 1995 and include interesting case studies and a few
general observations.
For instance, researchers observed that network building
followed the political context as well as technical constraints (including technical
standards). Yet there was no attempt to develop a coherent narrative and, according to
at least one commentator, there was a lack of sensitivity to tensions.
More recently some of these economic historians were involved in the European
research programme COST 340 ‘Towards a European Intermodal Transport Network:
Lessons from History’(2000-2004). It aims to study the two major factors in the
integration of transport networks within Europe: trans European connections and
intermodal transportation.
The programme addresses only transport networks, and
judging from the available proceedings, the main focus is on multimodality rather
than transnational linking although again there are interesting case studies on
transnational links.
Remarkably, a (most valuable) bibliographic publication
juxtaposing national bibliographies seems to reinforce the national approach to
transport history.
Finally, since 1999 historians of technologies have explored possibilities to write a
European history of technology, of which this special issue bears witness. The
programme ‘Tensions of Europe’ focuses on transnational linkages and circulation.
Its ‘Networking Europe’ subtheme explored the development of transnational
infrastructures, and its participants contributed various case studies exposing
ambiguities in transnational network building. In the next section we shall draw on
these and other case studies to develop a preliminary narrative of transnational
network building in 19
and 20
century Europe.
Narrative: Europe’s network builders
In the history of network technologies, the 19
and 20
centuries are characterized
by enormous expansion. Around 1800 road and water transport still constituted the
main arteries for trans-border exchanges of people, goods, energy, and information.
Communication and energy supply had not yet separated from transport (except for
optical telegraphy, used largely in wartime situations). In the 19
and 20
however, networks not only expanded greatly in scale and density but also multiplied:
entirely new networks were built and they reached continental or even global
dimensions. These included new transport networks (railroads, air transport,
automobile-only roads) as well as new separate networks for communications
(telegraphy, telephony, radio, television) and energy supply (electricity, gas
We shall construct our narrative primarily with reference to those network
technologies in focus in contemporary society: railways and electromagnetic
telecommunications in the 19
century, and electricity and automobility in much of
the 20
. They had charged symbolic value during the periods under investigation
something like ICT networks have today. Also, we shall pay special attention to
privileged actors that were centrally positioned in transnational network building:
Europe’s system- or network builders. This allows us to describe transnational
network building as a human process rather than a necessity feature of progressive
European integration or technical development, foregrounding how networks were
conceived, built, negotiated, and contested. Moreover, these actors often related to
broader societal questions (the Nazis used Grossraumtechnik to construct their
Neuropa, the European Union sees Trans European Networks as tools for economic
and social cohesion). Therefore this approach allows us to explore relations between
transnational network and society building in 20
century Europe. Notably, we do not
argue that these network builders were solely responsible for top-down building
transnational networks. Rather, to study these actors is a methodological move to
access the complex game of transnational network and society building.
States and 19
century transnational network building
By the turn of the 20th century two infrastructures unknown by 1800 had reached
continental and global dimensions. Railroads and electric telegraph networks captured
the imaginations of contemporaries. They stood out as symbols of modernity and
progress. Simultaneously, contemporaries might be highly disturbed by the
‘annihilation of time and space.’
Moreover, these network technologies were hailed
as tools to integrate societies in the service of progress and world peace. “Railways
have more relation to the religious spirit than we think. Never has there existed an
instrument of such power to link together scattered peoples,” concluded Michel
Chevalier in the 1830s, the Saint-Simonian and future French Senator.
As vehicle of
hope, railways had replaced waterways. Saint Simon himselfon the occasion of the
Vienna congress (1814) had seen the linking up of Europe by artificial waterways as
a task of his envisioned ‘European Parliament’, a new institution that should put an
end to war as Europe’s ‘normal condition’.
This European parliament did not materialize. Instead, 19
century transnational
network building was often carried out by states or private companies allied with
states. Also new international organisations like the International Telegraph Union
(ITU, founded 1865) contributed to shaping international systems. Perhaps they even
foreshadowed post-World War II European cooperation initiatives.
Their role has to
be further investigated, but judging from the studies available so far it seems that
states became the primary network builders. International organisations like the ITU
seem responses to coordination problems that emerged subsequently.
From the existing literature we know about the British endeavours to construct
global shipping and telegraphy networks, and how other powerful states like the US,
France, and Germany engaged in network building to challenge British economic and
military hegemony. Next to shipping and telegraph lines, railways played an
increasing role, as the Baghdad and Siberian railway projects indicate.
moulded domestic as well as international relations through network building.
Less well known is that small states, too, engaged in the game of trans-border
infrastructure building as the material and political maps of Europe were redrawn. In
northern Europe, Denmark became a node in international telegraphy as the Great
Nordic Telegraph Company’s wires connected Britain, Scandinavia, and Russia,
China and Japan independent of British cables.
On the Iberian peninsula, Spain and
Portugal were negotiating a position in the British-dominated telegraph network. At
the Channel coast, the Belgian and Dutch states competed for trade flows by
connecting their main ports (Antwerp and Amsterdam) by rail to Germany’s industrial
Ruhr area in the 1840s. A few decades later, the Austrian, Swiss and French
governments initiated infrastructural works to attract north-south traffic through the
Alps, while Italy and Greece started competing for Suez canal traffic.
In the Networking Europe programme, we have analysed several of these cases.
Angel Calvo (forthcoming) and Ana Paula Da Silva (forthcoming) examine Spanish
and Portuguese involvements with British telegraph cable building. For instance,
British telegraph companies were interested in a southern transatlantic route involving
the Spanish Canary Islands and Cuba. In the end negotiations failed as the Overseas
Ministry in Madrid refused to allow a cable from Cuba to the US coast. Some decades
later the same ministry tried hard to get a telegraphic connection directly with Cuba.
However, the outbreak of the Cuban revolt and the 1898 war with the US meant that
Spain lost Cuba as a colony.
The Portuguese government, by contrast, successfully negotiated cooperation with
Great Britain, perceived as a great strategic ally. The Portuguese aimed for a win-win
scenario: British transatlantic telegraph companies could use Lisbon, the Azores, and
Cape Verde as relay stations. Simultaneously, the Portuguese government would
achieve communication links with its colonies, for which it lacked financial and
technical resources of its own. However, the political relations were rather unequal;
Portugal felt increasingly squeezed in subsequent negotiations on ownership, terms,
and profits of cable use, but could not change its marginal position. The “hosts” felt
they had become “hostage” of the British.
Likewise, Tympas and Anastasiadou (forthcoming)and Schueler (forthcoming)
reveal several ambiguities in railway building. In south-eastern Europe, Greek
engineers and politicians foresaw Athens as a gateway to Europe after the Suez canal
opened in 1869.
One tension relates to disagreement about the routing. An east-west
line connecting Athens to the western Greek coast and by a short maritime passage to
Italy was discussed since 1869. This line, later named the ‘Iron Egnatia Road’ (after
the old Roman road connecting Greece to Rome), was never constructed. The
development of steam shipping rendered the time gains of rail transport via Greece
obsolete ships would head for northern Italy directly. The other route ran from
Athens to the northern border, where it would connect to the railroads of the Ottoman
The latter connection was built but ran into the tensions of politics. Negotiations
on interconnection with the Ottomans failed. Only after a new Balkan War (1912-
1913), the First World War, disintegration of the Ottoman Empire, and the Greek
annexation of Trace and Macedonia, was the south-north line connected to the lines
inherited from the Ottomans and thus to Europe, via Serbia and Bulgaria.
A third tension concerned the perceived economic role of the railway network.
For some Greeks, economic development would follow from the integration of as
much Greek territory as possible by means of cheap, narrow gauge (meter-wide) rail
lines. Others saw Greek economic growth dependent on connection to the European
economy and railroad network and preferred a European standard gauge (1.44 m).
The result was a hybrid network, combining a broad gauge south-north connection
with narrow gauge secondary lines. Notably, their incompatibility would increase
further as the south-north artery was updated to handle faster and heavier transport
Analysing one of the most famous passages through the Alps, the Gotthard tunnel
(opened in 1882), Judith Schueler adds a new set of tensions to the research domain.
She emphasises the multiple meanings of this vital node. The St. Gotthard became a
vital transport junction connecting the countries of northern Europe to southern
Europe, particularly the trade centres in northern Italy, with heavy involvement (and
financing) of the German and Italian states. Simultaneously, Swiss politicians backed
the tunnel because it attracted rail traffic in competition with the Mont Cenis tunnel
between France and Italy and the Semmering railways in Austria. The tunnel was also
a hallmark of heroic engineering and dangerous work (199 labourers died during
construction), a central point in collective Swiss identity, a crucial junction in the
Swiss military defence system, and even a tourist site valuable to the local economy
of the region.
These and other cases suggest that, already before 1900, Europe was increasingly
linked up in telegraph and railroad networks. Geographical bottlenecks, like oceans
and mountain ranges, were overcome. The context, however, was one of nation states
supporting and negotiating transnational network building for their own benefit.
While Europe was increasingly integrated, it was a game of winners and losers, of
successful and failed projects, of cooperation, negotiations, and conflicts. In the end,
some areas were much better integrated than others; some became political and
economic centres, others remained on the periphery. These trans-European networks
and related power structures remain to be systematically charted.
The era of electricity, automobility, and European dreams
States, large and small, are still key actors in building transnational networks
today. However, new players and visions entered the field in the first half of the 20
century. The First World War triggered political visions of a United Europe, and
again new and exciting network technologies were seen as possible carriers of this
process. Electric power networks promising universal and abundant power supply,
based on hydropower and later nuclear power, and universal (auto)mobility became
the new symbols of hope and progress. By the 1930s, ideas of a technological
unification of Europe were gaining momentum. There was a wave of trans-continental
power supply plans that would tie European nations together in pan-continental
electricity networks fed by the hydropower sources of Norway, Switzerland and
Austria, or dams to be built in the Straits of Gibraltar or across the English Channel.
Simultaneously, the first plans of pan-European highway networks emerged.
One of these utopian projects, the so-called Atlantropa project envisioned the
forging of Africa and Europe together in the new continent Atlantropa. Through a 35-
km dam across the Straits of Gibraltar this project should produce new ‘living space
in the Mediterranean basin, while supplying all of Europe with hydroelectricity
distributed by a pan European high-voltage network. The projected capacity of the
Gibraltar power plant (50,000 MW) equalled that of all European power plants
combined in 1930.
Alexander Gall (forthcoming) identifies three streams of thinking that merged in
the visions of the Atlantropa project. First, it connected to nascent ideas of European
political integration as a means to counter threats to the Old World’s global
dominance. Atlantropa’s founding father, Hermann Sörgel, was much inspired by
Coudenhove-Kalergi’s Paneuropa Union (1923), which strove to politically unite the
continent to counter the perceived economic threat from an emerging US and a
military threat from a politically united Soviet Union. Second, the Atlantropa project
also drew on the burgeoning technocracy movements that were sceptical about
politician’s abilities to forge a peaceful world. Sörgel and others saw the material
integration of Europe as an alternative route to the unrealistic route of political
integration: material integration would avoid nationalisms, promise profits and
thereby motivate entrepreneurs, and create prosperity and the mutual dependency of
nations in the long run. Finally, plans like Atlantropa in a strange way benefited from
the world crisis - Gall speaks of a ‘Utopia of crisis’. It was at times presented as a
gigantic employment relief project, and Sörgel promised prosperity and an end to
unemployment for the entire continent.
One irony is that such plans fell far short of being executed. Another is that this
way of thinking was picked up in Nazi Germany. Helmut Maier (forthcoming) shows
how new scientific domains as large-area economy Grossraumwirtschaft - and
large-territory technology - Grossraumtechnik ideologically connected transnational
infrastructure building to the building of a New Europe, Neuropa. During the Second
World War, several transborder power, highway, and broad-gauge railway systems
were built. Yet rather than forging a new society or Reich, they served to extract
energy and raw materials from the annexed countries destined for the German war
economy. Moreover, analysing the industrial complex of Auschwitz, Maier shows
that the war industry was intimately tied to transborder electricity supply (using
electricity produced in Kaprun, Austria) and the lager system (providing the necessary
Post-war reconstruction and the Cold War
After the Second World War, a new group of network builders entered the scene,
again embracing transnational network building as a means to forge transnational
societies. One major tension in network building related to the new East-West
division in Europe.
The United Nations established an Economic Committee for Europe (UNECE,
1947) explicitly to forge ties between all countries of Europe. In the words of the first
UNECE executive secretary, Gunnar Myrdal, the stake was “strengthening the links
between countries on both sides of the divide, which must be preserved and
strengthened if we want to build a sounder Europe and a peaceful world.”
Blomkvist (forthcoming) describes the UNECE policy of promoting transnational
motor roads, railway, and electricity systems. Not unlike Sörgel twenty years earlier,
Myrdal preferred to bypass complicated political processes. Instead, the UNECE
aimed at tying Europe together by material networks. It preferred to work with non-
political partners such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the
International Road Federation (IRF). This provided a route for corporate lobbies to
affect transnational nation building through the UNECE. For instance, the IRF
managed to get the famous E-road plan for a network of motorways connecting
Europe on the UNECE agenda in 1950. The IRF was created by oil, rubber, car
industries in the USA in 1948 and had a commercial stake in connecting road building
to increased well-being and individual freedom, captured in the slogan ‘Better roads
for better living’ (closely echoing the Dupont companys slogan, “Better Things for
Better Living Through Chemistry”). In Europe, Shell and other European oil and car
companies gained influence through national IRF branches established to affect
national politics, and a European IRF office lobbying for United Nations policies, a
lobby which fitted well with the UNECE’s desire for non-political expert partners.
Soon, however, the Cold War produced its own system builders. The UNECE,
again in the words of Myrdal, deeply regretted being ‘bypassed’ by highly successful
‘subregional organizations’.
While the envisioned pan-European integration did not
materialize quite to the contrary, many existing links across the Iron Curtain were
closed down, or “delinked” these subregional organisations built transnational
networks on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. Thus, network building intertwined
with the emergence of a ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ European space.
Looking at this process in more detail, Pergselius (forthcoming) analyses how
the Baltic States were integrated politically, economically, and technically into the
Soviet empire. Railway and telegraph lines had already been designed to tie together
the Tsarist Empire and needed little adaptation. Transnational telephone lines, built in
the 1930s to connect the Baltic countries westward and to Finland, were cut and
replaced by new connections to Moscow, which remained an obligatory passage point
for Baltic international calls until the 1980s. In the 1950s and 60s the Baltic region
was electrically tied into the Soviet empire via the so-called the North-western Ring.
Immense new power stations, such as the infamous Ignalina nuclear power plant
(1983) in Lithuania and several shale-oil power plants in Estonia (1959, 1969) formed
part of a large system (involving also the Kaliningrad enclave and Belorussia) to
provide a major part of the electricity consumed in the north-western part of the
Soviet Union. Simultaneously, the COMECON set up the Central Dispatching
Organization of the Interconnected Power System (1962) to facilitate Soviet
electricity exports to COMECON member states.
Meanwhile, ‘Western’ Europe was also increasingly linked up. Geert Verbong
(forthcoming) describes how the construction of a transnational power grid was
coordinated by the Union for Coordination of Production and Transport of Electricity
(UCPTE, 1951) set up by the new Organisation for European Economic Cooperation
(OEEC, 1948) administering the Marshal Plan funds. The UCPTE strove to guarantee
electricity supply ‘as if there were no borders.’
In the early 1960s Scandinavian
electrical integration was negotiated within the Nordic organisation Nordel,
established in 1963.
The UCPTE and Nordel coordinated the construction of a
power grid that by 1965 stretched from northern Scandinavia to southern Italy.
Verbong shows that this integration was not achieved by top-down network building;
instead, these rather weak organisations mediated between state-owned and private
electricity companies that were responsible for constructing and maintaining different
parts of the grid. This perhaps explains a first irony the new transnational power
grid was hardly used before the era of liberalization. Each power company prioritised
self-sufficiency in its own territory and bilateral exchange contracts with other
companies covered only supplementary supply. National or even provincial electricity
flows remained dominant.
A second irony pertains to the increased transnational power flows following the
liberalization of electricity markets in the 1990s. In the 1970s and 1980s several
countries had rejected nuclear power, after intense societal debates and the Chernobyl
catastrophe. Yet the availability of a transnational power grid combined with new
deregulation policies sometimes resulted in massive imports of Belgian or French
nuclear power. This happened in the Netherlands, which despite rejecting atomic
power silently became a nuclear society after all.
We should observe that this division of Europe into two networked transnational
blocks included a set of breaches in the Iron Curtain, such as the Hungarian-Austrian
power exchange or the Czechoslovakian-German trade on the Danube River. More
controversial was the construction of gas pipelines from the Soviet Union to Western
Europe in the 1970s. The large-scale import of Soviet gas to Western Europe caused
considerable tensions within NATO. The US government was very critical of these
gas contracts and pointed to the dependency that was created and the risk that the
Soviet Union could close the gas taps to put pressure on importing countries.
Finally, the political and economic reorientation of the former Eastern European
countries after 1989 also played out in the field of network building. For instance, the
European Union increasingly prioritised East-West links in the 1990s, and the current
EU enlargement process is accompanied by discussions on extending Trans European
Networks to link up the new EU countries in what is today called Central Eastern
Europe. These programmes are also contested for instance, East-West integration is
prioritised at the expense of integrating Central Eastern European countries mutually,
which some consider much more urgent.
The above-mentioned study bygselius of electricity systems in the Baltic
States further analyses some of the tensions, contradictory concerns, and multiple
stakes in processes of political and material relinking. The Baltic independence
movement of the late 1980s chose electrical independence from Russia and
connection to the West as one of its primary arenas. Environmentalism, especially
opposition to nuclear power and to dirty shale oil plants, was part of this rhetoric.
However, when the Baltic States had achieved independence, new nationalistic
considerations took over. The big power plants represented an important economic
value not easily discarded. Much to the surprise of Western politicians and officials,
the previous Baltic interests in ‘clean Western power’ vanished. Environmentalism
turned out to be little more than a tool for political independence.
Equally interesting, projects to interconnect the Baltic to the Western power grids
remained in the planning phase. In contrast, many other former ‘Eastern European’
countries actually disconnected from the Russian grid and synchronized with the
West-European (UCPTE, now UCTE) grid. The Baltic States with large power plants
found exports to Russia an asset too valuable too lose, and the plans for delinking
from Russia and relinking to Sweden, Poland, and Finland proved politically and
economically difficult to realize. For the time being, Baltic power stations supply their
own populations and have a modest export to Russia.
Suggestions for future research
At present politicians, officials, and businessmen all over the continent see the
“networking of Europe” as a major challenge. The European Union enlargement of
2004 has spurred lots of plans and projects to increase the capacity and standards of
transnational infrastructures. We showed above that this focus on networks is not
new. In the past two centuries many individuals and institutions worked hard to
promote transnational infrastructures. The building and use of these networks created
material and institutional links between European states that greatly affected many
political, economical, social and cultural processes, which in turn have strongly
influenced the construction of infrastructures.
With this article we argue that the networking of Europe should therefore be seen
as a major challenge by historians as well. Our review of the existing literature
indicates that many historians acknowledge the pivotal role of infrastructures in the
shaping of Europe, but have failed to actually study European network development
and its entanglement with broader societal changes. This task is long overdue. Recent
exploratory projects in the context of the 11
international economic history
conference, the COST 340 programme, and the Tensions of Europe programme ought
to be followed up by a more systematic research effort. In this concluding section we
will suggest some topics for future research.
One major challenge is to further specify and investigate the intertwining of
network building and wider societal changes in Europe. This very ambitious and
difficult issue relates to the role of technology in European history at large and
requires a wide-ranging dialogue between the history of technology and European
integration history disciplines, one that would transcend the (reductionist) question of
the primacy of technology or, say, politics. For instance, the preliminary narrative
presented above fuses two periodisations: in the history of network technologies,
roads, and waterways were in focus in the 18
century, while rail and telegraphy
occupied centre stage in the 19
century. Electric power and automobile networks
attracted imagination and investments in much of the 20
century, which ends with a
fascination for information and communication technologies by the turn of the 21
A periodisation following European political history, on the other hand, may
include an era of nation-state building and nationalism, which is often believed to
have culminated in two World Wars. As the Napoleonic Wars inspired Saint Simon to
plea for a European Parliament, the two world wars revived visions of a European
polity. After the Second World War, Europe was increasingly integrated albeit in two
competing blocks divided by the Iron Curtain. After the events of 1989, the European
Union became the main proponent of European integration and expanded into Central
and Eastern Europe. Neither periodisation dominated; the ‘material basis’ of network
technologies set the stage for wider socio-economic and political events, while
political developments affected the shaping of transnational networks. We hope to
investigate the multiple ways in which these periodisations connect. In the narrative
above we spotlighted actors that were involved in politics as well as network building,
and followed their simultaneous engagements in the construction of both spheres.
Much more work is needed to develop our understanding of the interactions between
network building and wider political and cultural changes in 19
and 20
We now specify these general concerns by proposing more concrete research
issues that fit the portfolio of historians of technology. To begin, visions for
transnational networks are a promising research site. Above we briefly introduced
Hermannrgel and Gunnar Myrdal, two very different visionaries of European
networks. Many other Europeans have during the past two centuries formulated plans
and visions for tunnels and bridges crossing natural boundaries of mountains or water,
and for creating networks of cables, rails, or roads embracing many countries - only
few of which have ever been realized. These visionaries and their visions are
fascinating research topics. Under which circumstances and in what kind of
intellectual and political milieus were such visions and plans formulated? How were
they phrased: in engineering terms, as making infrastructural systems more rational
and efficient; in economic terms, as enabling trade and prosperity; or in political
terms, as bringing peace and stability? What was their geographic scope: a single link
between two countries, or a network encompassing all of Europe or even its colonies,
or somewhere in between? Which areas were included and not less interesting -
The journey from visions and plans to material reality involves transnational
system building, a second promising research entry. Often infrastructures were first
constructed within countries, and each country developed its own institutional
frameworks and perhaps also specific technical standards and designs. Transnational
linking projects had to deal with these differences, either by developing interfaces
by harmonizing and standardizing systems internationally.
A large number of
international organisations have been established since the 19
century to provide
arenas for handling such issues. These include formal institutions for government
representatives (like the ITU) as well as informal lobby groups for industrialists and
different engineering communities. Who created such organisations and why? How
did they function and interact with national governments, multinational companies,
and transnational bodies like the League of Nations, UN, NATO, COMECON or EU?
Moreover, transnational system building involves many challenges on site.
Sometimes transnational link construction involved complicated engineering efforts,
like the Channel tunnel, the Öresund bridge or submarine telegraph cables.
Sometimes it involved the rather straightforward building of an ordinary stretch of
road, rail or cable across a border, but ran into challenges of an institutional or
political nature. How have different transnational links come about? Which kind of
actors were involved and how were decisions made? Did the actual construction
process lead to special problems due to the international character of the project? A
new link is sometimes expected to have considerable regional consequences on both
sides of the border, and local interest groups may support or oppose its construction.
Under which circumstances did local resistance delay, halt, or change projects? And
what happened after the completion of links - did fears or hopes come true?
This brings us to the use of transnational linkages. The study of usage constitutes
a rich research area in the history of technology. Moreover, it has proven very
productive for understanding how network development intertwined with wider
societal changes at the national level of analysis.
Which uses of transnational
networks or links were anticipated, and to what extent did these expectations come
true? Such anticipated uses can vary considerably in kind. For example, a century ago
railways in Europe were built not only for use in times of peace but also as a
preparation for war. At the outbreak of World War I millions of soldiers were
transported to the various fronts according to very elaborate Military Travel Plans.
Another aspect of the use of transnational linkages has to do with unanticipated and
unwanted flows. The refugees trying to use the Channel tunnel is a telling example.
New links are often accompanied with custom stations entrusted to prevent the
unwanted flows across borders. How did they fulfil their gate-keeping functions?
Furthermore, one may study how individual and ‘institutional’ users
existing transnational networks for their own purposes.
A fifth research entry we want to mention are moments of radical political
change, which may have affected flows in dramatic ways or even led to the delinking
or relinking of networks. It can be interesting to compare different infrastructures and
their ability to respond to such events. For example, a journalist recently visiting Riga,
Latvia, compared that city’s aviation and the railway systems. The international
airport serving Riga was recently enlarged and rebuilt and looked like modern airports
anywhere in the rich world. The departure board announced flights westward to
foreign cities like Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Stockholm, Brussels, Warsaw and Prague.
Riga’s main railway station, by contrast, is firmly rooted in the past, even though it
has been handsomely renovated. The few long-distance trains head for Moscow and
St Petersburg in Russia, Odessa and Lviv in Ukraine, and Gomel in Belarus. No direct
trains run from Riga to Talinn or Vilnius, the capitals of the neighbouring Baltic
countries. The Soviet legacy is clearly evident in the rigid railway system, while the
flexible aviation system has been adapted quickly to new political and economic
No doubt, many other research strategies and topics can be productive to
investigate the networking of Europe. We believe that a multiplicity of approaches
may help to avoid narratives that falsely portray this process as a linear, politically or
technologically inevitable success story. Above all, we find the networking of Europe
a topic far too important to be excluded from the European history canon.
This essay benefited greatly from discussions within the European Science Foundation network
Tensions of Europe and the Transnational Infrastructures in Europe (TIE) programme at the
Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, and from grants from the European Science Foundation, the
Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research, and the Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Fund. Johan
Schot, Tom Misa, and two anonymous referees provided useful comments.
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Various articles on and
For a history of this idea see Mattelart, The invention of communication; Mattelart, Networking the
Hughes, Human-built world, 1. Compare Misa, ‘The compelling Tangle’, 9; Staudenmaier, ‘Henry
Ford’s relation’; Hard, ‘Beyond harmony.’
The programme produced two largely overlapping conference proceedings and a collection of
summaries. Merger et al., Les réseaux Européens; Carreras et al., European networks; Carreras et al.,
European Networks A companion volume. Another programme, the COST 340 programme (2000-
2004) headed by Merger, set out to research the history of transnational and intermodal transport, but
seems to focus particularly on multimodality. See below.
Hughes, Networks of power; Hughes, ‘The evolution.’
Van der Vleuten, ‘Infrastructures and societal change.’
Van der Vleuten and Verbong, Networked nation.
Den Boer et al., The history; Davies, Europe, 8. Malmborg and Stråth, ‘Introduction’ to The
meaning of Europe.
Dawson, A geography, 2-3.
Woolf, ‘Europe and its historians.’
Davies, Europe, 45 and 46.
Ibid. 681-82, 759-68 and 1081.
Weber, A modern history, 447-450; 709-715; 982-989.Compare Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen;
Van Dijk, De modernisering; Knudsen and Ifversen, Hjem til Europa; Lutzen and Rosenbeck, Den
moderne tid.
Gillingham, European integration.
Den Boer et al., The history. Le Goff, Das alte Europa; Shore, Building Europe; Malmborg and
Stråth, The meaning of Europe. Peter Bugge mentions Stefan Zweig, who in 1943 related a European
community spirit with technical developments that outdated borders. See Bugge’s contribution to Den
Boer et al., The meaning, 85.
Urwin, The community. Gillingham, European integration.
Griffiths, The Netherlands and the integration of Europe, ix.
Wallerstein, The modern world system vol. 1, 349.
Woodruff, ‘The emergence’, 688 and 735.
Heaton, Economic history of Europe; Birni, An economic history of Europe; Cloug, European
economic history; Woodruff, ‘The emergence’; Ville, ‘Transport and communications.’
Girard, ‘Transport.’
Ville, Transport.
Merger, Carreras and Giuntini, ‘Introduction’ to Merger et al, Les réseaux Européens.
According to UNECE’s first Secretary General Myrdal, ‘Twenty years’, 621.
On transnational electricity lines see UCPTE, UCPTE 1951-1971; UCPTE, 25 annees. On railroads
see Armand, Union Internationale. On European broadcasting see Degenhardt and Strautz, Auf der
Suche. Zeller, Die EBU. These organisations will be studied in the Transnational Infrastructures in
Europe (TIE) project at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (2003-2007).
Cited from Andersson-Skog and Kranz, ‘Preface’ to Institutions in the transport and
communications industries.
Grübler, The rise and fall; Ville, Transport; Kunz & Armstrong, Inland navigation.
Anastasiadou, ‘Building’; Schipper, ‘Free mobility.
Mom, ‘What kind of transport history.’
Hughes, Networks of power.
Williams, A history of technology; Daumas, A history of technology.
For a review see Van der Vleuten, ‘Infrastructures and societal Change.’
Which is not to say that there are no network studies outside its framework of reference. See for
instance the work of Headrick on imperialism; Fisher, America Calling; Nye, Electrifying America.
Galambos, ‘A view’, 177.
Hughes, American genesis; Rescuing Prometheus; Hughes and Hughes, Systems; Mayntz and
Hughes, The development; LaPorte, Social responses; Summerton, Changing large technical systems;
Coutard, Governance of Large Technical Systems; Gras, Les macro-systèmes techniques; Braun and
Joerges, Technik ohne Grenzen; Kaijser, I fädrens spår; Blomkvist and Kaijser, Den konstruerade
världen; Jonsson, Infrasystemens dynamik; Van der Vleuten and Verbong, Networked nation.
Hughes, Networks of power; Kaijser and Hedin, Nordic energy systems; Nielsen, New energy
systems. Rinde, Kontingens.
Kaijser, ‘Trans-border integration’; Summerton, ‘Power plays’; McGowan, ‘The
internationalisation’; Griset, ‘technological systems.’
This might also apply to infrastructure studies in historical geography and business history.
Pounds’ An historical geography of Europe addresses transport networks but follows the ‘Europe of
nation states’ format. Dawson’s A geography of European integration, 4-12 confirms this format’s
dominance in geographies of Europe, claiming to be the first book to address all of Europe. Dawson,
however, pays little attention to infrastructural changes. In business history, Chandler’s The visible
hand is famous for asserting the importance of rail and telegraphy in the growth of large U.S.
companies, which has spurred much debate. Compare Davids, ‘The fabric of production.The field has
been much inspired by economic history and is currently interested in network industries.
Caron, ‘Introduction’; Caron, ‘L’évolution.’ Compare the ‘List of papers submitted’, 111-112.
Merger et al., Les réseaux Européens; Carreras et al., European networks; Carreras et al., European
Networks A companion volume.
Headrick, ‘Réseaux et pouvoir’, 412.
Merger, introduction to Towards a European intermodal transport network, xvi-xix;
Merger and Polina, Towards a European transport system. Merger and Mata, Towards a European
transport system. Dienel, Unconnected transport networks.
Only the Italian and Spanish contributions contain sections on transnational networks. Giuntini and
Pavese, ‘Bibliography’, 115-116; Carreras, ‘National bibliography’, 179-181.
Instead of comparing national experiences as was suggested in the early 1990s. Christensen,
European historiography.
Compare Verbong and Van der Vleuten, ‘Under construction.’
Schivelbush, Geschichte; Gras, Les macro-systèmes.
Mattelart, The invention, 103.
St. Simon, ‘The reorganisation of the European community.
Thus argues Van der Herten, België onder stoom, 102.
Hugill, World trade. Hugill, Global communications. Headrick, The invisible weapon.
Thestrup and Johansen, ‘Le Danemark.’
These papers will be published in a forthcoming book.
See also Anastasiadou, ‘National and international considerations.’
Myrdal, ‘Twenty years’, 619, 628.
Rey, ‘Borders’, 21.
Bauer et al, UCPTE, 161.
Kaijser, ‘Trans-border integration.’
Fleischer, ‘Infrastructure networks.’
Hughes, in Networks of power, speaks of ‘couplers.’ David and Bunn, in ‘The economics’, speak of
‘gateway technologies.’ An example is the connection of two electricity systems by a High Voltage
Direct Current Link. Such links can be made between systems with different standards, and
disturbances in one of the systems is not transferred to the other.
Kaijser, I fädrens spår.
E.g. Nye, Electrifying America; Fisher, America calling; Van der Vleuten and Verbong, Networked
Van der Vleuten, ‘Infrastructures and societal change’ and ‘In search of the networked nation.’
‘Europe’s building site’, The Economist November 22, 2003.
... Transnational entanglements: In the context of globalization and Europeanization, and the global and transnational turn in history, a rich body of transnational infrastructure history emerged (e.g. Van der Vleuten and Kaijser, 2005; Van der Vleuten and Kaijser, 2006;Badenoch andFickers, 2010a, 2010b;Schipper and Schot 2011;Högselius et al., 2013;Ambrosius and Henrich-Franke, 2013;Schiefelbusch and Dienel, 2016;Marklund and Rüdiger, 2017). In that literature, the concept of system building was repurposed for transnational analysis. ...
... Lagendijk and van der Vleuten, 2013), or seemingly 'domestic' nuclear power plants, canals, or rail tunnels (Hristov, 2014;Janáč and van der Vleuten, 2016). These studies investigated-through the lens of selected system builders-not only successful system building, but also critiques, conflicts, alternatives, and failures; indeed, they set out to symmetrically study transnational integration and fragmentation (Van der Vleuten and Kaijser, 2005). In sum, the notion of transnational system building trained investigative attention on actors forging transnational as well as sociotechnical entanglements and how they proceeded, succeeded, or failed. ...
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This article explores how radical historical change takes place in the form of connected, interacting, or "deep" transitions: transitions in different socio-technical systems [e.g. energy, mobility, food, military] interact and mutually reinforce change processes, leading to radical societal change. This paper discusses a historical Deep Transition: It tracks the connected histories of Europe’s mobility, food supply, warfare, and ecological systems, all of which experienced a transnational infrastructure transition in the 19th and 20th centuries. Studying these connected histories as a ‘deep’ infrastructure transition highlights important dynamics of radical historical change. This paper also adds to the deep transitions research agenda (Schot and Kanger 2018), highlighting: (1) the importance of studying actors in Deep Transitions—particularly ‘system entanglers’ who interweave various sociotechnical systems and thereby connect transitions; (2) how such actors produced convergence, but also divergence across connected transitions; (3) the extreme unpredictability of Deep Transitions due to such divergences; and (4) the need for reflexivity regarding the analyst’s role in delineating Deep Transitions, so as to avoid essentialism and the uncritical reproduction of contemporary preoccupations.
This article deals with the Nordic Council as a cooperation organ for building transnational roads outside of the E-road network during the period 1956–1966. The Nordic experience of planning and interconnecting transnational roads is related to the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) and the development of the E-road network. It is noted that whereas the E-road network built on an ambition within the ECE to create mutual understanding and fraternity between the European nations, the Nordic Council viewed roads as instruments to deal with shared economic and social problems. Another difference is that while the member states of the ECE interacted with societal groups and expert organisations during the interconnection of the E-road network, such actors did not participate directly with the Nordic Council. The inter-Nordic stream of technical expertise was primarily channelled through the national road administrations which cooperated to interconnect the trans-Nordic network.
It is evident that Science and Technology Studies (STS) offers important insights for energy studies research. Yet, attending to global energy problems has received less attention within this budding research engagement. Building upon John Urry’s theorization of the global, this paper calls for considering the embedding of automobility in the global South in order for the growing STS and energy studies research to take the global seriously. Empirically investigating automobility is timely and STS’ diverse tool-box of theories is uniquely positioned for the task. With the street as locus, I propose a hybrid framework that draws upon several STS literatures to conceptualize the politics of automobility in the global south. Relying on STS for this purpose offers pathways towards just low-carbon transitions.
This article delves into the processes of territorial transformation by foregrounding the material dimension of infrastructure. The entry of the research is infrastructure network design and planning. We will trace the concepts of territorial transformation inscribed into the material layout of large technical systems by analyzing the discourse of engineers and policy makers involved in the conception of infrastructure networks. In so doing, the material politics of infrastructure networks will be studied: How did engineers and policy makers design infrastructure to generate a specific territorial transformation? Moreover, how did technological plans hold the idea that one could influence modernization processes by means of a territorial transformation instigated by infrastructure? The neutral status of technology is thus fundamentally challenged by showing that engineers, in association with policy makers, were essential actors in the planned transformation of the territory as they organized infrastructure networks according to specific ideas relating spatial and societal transformation. The article focuses on two decades after the independence of Belgium (1831), when engineers conceived comprehensive networks of rails, waterways, and roads. The material politics of two major public works initiatives will be analyzed: (1) the centrally positioned railway network that connected all industrial centers within the territory as well as with the markets of neighboring countries, positioning Belgium into Europe as international turntable, and (2) a network of roads and canals in peripheral, so-called unproductive, regions that had to integrate these regions within national borders, and indeed extend these borders, as well as buffer and govern the side-effects and risks generated by the accelerating industrialization in the central parts of the nation.
This essay contends that the US Signal Corps’ wartime network had major consequences for the postwar development of the political economy of the telephone in the United States, France, and Europe. Our approach is transnational. In contrast to previous scholarship, which is mostly top-down, nation-centric, and preoccupied with the internal configuration of telephone networks that are typically studied inside the walls of discrete national containers, we widen the lens to explore a broad array of influences on network evolution, including those that originated from within individual operating companies and beyond national borders. Among the themes that we explore is transnational standard-setting. And among the agents of change that we emphasize is the influence of military conflict on personal networks, technical protocols, and international organizations. From such a vantage point, the First World War emerges as a constitutive moment in the making of the information infrastructure in the modern world.
Infrastructures are part of our lives. We connect to the internet, use mobile phones, take the train, and get electricity from the power socket. Today everyone knows what an infrastructure is, and every child has a picture book about railways, cars or computers. Historically, the term ‘infrastructure’ is relatively new. It emerged in the late 19th century to identify the sub-structure or underpinning of railways, including bridges and tracks.
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The book introduction discusses the notion of Europe’s infrastructure transition: Over the past two centuries, Europe’s infrastructure, its overlapping economies, its military systems, and its natural environments interacted in an unpredictable, exceptionally dynamic process of radical historical change that transformed the continent beyond recognition.The introduction also discusses how this complex process of structural change can be studied from an actor-perspective.
This article examines the transfer of technology from Finnish enterprises to Soviet industry during the USSR's period of technological modernization between 1955 and 1964. It centers on the forestry sector, which was a particular focus of modernization programs and a key area for the transfer of foreign techniques and expertise. The aim of the article is to investigate the role of trips made by Soviet specialists to foreign (primarily Finnish) enterprises in order to illustrate the nontechnological influences that occurred during the transfer of technologies across the cold war border. To do so, the article is divided into two parts: the first presents a general analysis of technology transfer from a micro-level perspective, while the second investigates the cultural influences behind technological transfer in the Soviet-Finnish case. This study contends that although the Soviet government expected its specialists to import advanced foreign technical experience, they brought not only the technologies and expertise needed for modernizing the industry, but also a changed view on Soviet workplace management and everyday practices.
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The Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS), currently involving the collaboration of 140 countries across the world, was conceived during the late 1960s within the wider context of growing environmental consciousness—and the availability of instruments and programs that could provide a truly global data set. Under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), its mission is to collect and process data from transnational monitoring systems observing the effects of human activities on the environment and health. GEMS is based on the expertise and infrastructure of specialized United Nations (UN) agencies, and encompasses a number of scientific and professional communities.
This book compares resistance to technology across time, nations, and technologies. Three post-war examples - nuclear power, information technology, and biotechnology - are used in the analysis. The focus is on post-1945 Europe, with comparisons made with the USA, Japan, and Australia. Instead of assuming that resistance contributes to the failure of a technology, the main thesis of the book is that resistance is a constructive force in technological development, giving technology its particular shape in a particular context. Whilst many people still believe in the positive contribution made by science and technology, many have become sceptical. By exploring the idea that modernity creates effects that undermine its own foundations, forms and effects of resistance are explored in various contexts. The book presents a unique interdisciplinary study, including contributions from historians, sociologists, psychologists, and political scientists.