Mobilities And Transport History

Authored by: Colin Divall

The Routledge Handbook of Mobilities

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  January  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415667715
eBook ISBN: 9781315857572
Adobe ISBN: 9781317934134


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Mobilities – understood here to mean the flows of persons and things along with the immaterial circulation of information enabled by these flows – increasingly define how transport history is researched and written. This might seem an odd remark, given that transport is inherently involved with physical movement. But the shift to the language of ‘mobilities’ reflects a series of incremental conceptual and thematic developments since the 1990s in the way that historians and other scholars with an interest in the past, such as historical geographers and sociologists, industrial archaeologists, museum curators and transport-policy academics, understand and construct transport as an object of study. In particular, historical transport is now quite widely comprehended as a material (or socio-technical) culture functioning at and across a range of spatial scales from the local to the global. While such a schematic characterization leaves plenty of scope for further debate, there is an emerging consensus that it forms the basis for a flexible, open research programme constituting transport-cummobility history as a field marked by a common set of questions, themes and methodologies (Mom, Divall and Lyth 2009; Wilson 2010; Mom 2011). To borrow from the natural sciences, the term ‘collaboratory’ – a research centre without walls – signals a widespread desire for an intellectual community working across disciplinary and national boundaries and dedicated to showing how and why over the long term transport has produced the material mobilities of the present.

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