Railways as Portals of Globalisation: The Case of the Portuguese Mainland and Colonial Rail Networks (1850–1915)
Literature about railway history usually describes railways as promoters of progress and modernity, pioneers of civilization, conquerors of time and space, unrivalled promoters of migrations and long-distance freight haulage or tools of empire. Not as frequent is their depiction as agents of globalization. In this paper, I analyse how railways took on the role of promoters of global flows in Portugal and the territory of its former colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Goa (India), albeit the development of the Nation-State and the growth of nationalistic feelings (that characterized the second half of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth century) hampered those fluxes. In my analysis, the concept of globalization is used in a very broad sense, including not only trade and commercial movements, but also the transnational/ cross-border circulation of ideas, expertise, skills, capital, workers, commuters, and tourists. The methodology I used is based on the concept of portals of globalization, as defined my Matthias Middell and Katja Naumann, which is applied to the existing literature about Portuguese railways and a wide array of sources, including technical reports by Portuguese mainland and colonial authorities and assorted statistics of railway operation.