The Revolutionary Impact of New Technology: The Early Steamship, 1812-1840, an Interdisciplinary Study
Initially steam power was used in industry but it soon spread to transport. This dimension was first manifest as a commercial entity in the steamship, some twenty years before the railway. The steamship was of special importance as a modernising influence both in economic and social terms. Steamships represented the triumph of man over nature insofar as the steamboat was not at the mercy of wind or tide. This enabled, for the first time, the scheduling of shipping activity. Also the steamship was the first manifestation of modern technology to impact on the public at large in terms of consciousness and access. The steamship presented new problems of operation and management, and unprecedented opportunities for popular travel. There were additionally psychological aspects to the new form of transport, with its wider access. This paper, utilising the tools and approaches of economics, sociology and economic history, examines the introduction and impact of, and response to, the new technology. It is an inter-disciplinary study of technological advance, entrepreneurial take-up and consumer response.
Keywords: New Technology, Steamship, Social Change, Economic Change, Psychological Impact, Popular Travel
Prof. John Armstrong
Professor of Business History, Faculty of Professional Studies, Thames Valley University
Dr. David M Williams
Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Economic History, University of Leicester