A maritime modernity? The culture of global travel aboard the steamships of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company 1837-1874

Stafford, Jonathan (2015) A maritime modernity? The culture of global travel aboard the steamships of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company 1837-1874. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .

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Abstract

Conceptions of modernity have tended towards the identification of urban spatial practice as the primary signifier of meaning in this discourse. While much of this work has been crucial in identifying just what is at stake in a reading of modernity as a spatial and political project, this has lead to an oversight of the importance of the increasingly global character of social relations in this narrative. This thesis attempts to engage with this question from the perspective of the steamship, writing a cultural history of the introduction of steam power into colonial shipping during the mid-nineteenth century. Taking as a case study the steamships of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, widely known as P&O, this thesis sets out to highlight the importance of globalised networks of mobility in our conception of the experience of modernity. The introduction of steam is explored through the experiences of the passengers on board these ships. Utilising diaries, letters, contemporary press reports and published accounts of voyages, the impact of technological change is charted through associated cultural attitudes and altered conceptions of global travel. While the transitions which accompanied steam power’s entry into global shipping present a radical historical disjuncture, empirical research points rather to a complex srrucrure ofco-constitution between technology, global capital and the newly mobile human subjects aboard these vessels. The consequences of a departure from sail power gave rise not simply to a transitional society at sea on a difi'erent scale and at a greater velocity, but made possible structural change which allowed for a new kind of specifically modern, idiosyncratically imperial environment, in which global actors reinforced and receded aspects of control through performative instances of imperialism. Calling for an innovative interdisciplinary engagement with the maritime humanities, the thesis utilises a critical approach to historical material, seeing developing attitudes toward sea travel in relation to wider discourses governing conceptions of empire, colonialism and global space in the modern era.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Physical Location: This item is held in stock at Kingston University library.
Research Area: Art and design
Faculty, School or Research Centre: Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture (until 2017) > School of Art & Design History
Depositing User: Niki Wilson
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2015 12:17
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2018 12:12
URI: http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/id/eprint/32210

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