A stirring narrative of the rapid development of the great transatlantic steamships, from paddle-wheelers to the sleek luxury greyhounds of the modern era -- and the men who designed and ran them.
During the nineteenth century, the roughest but most important ocean passage in the world lay between Britain and the United States. Bridging the Atlantic Ocean by steamship was a defining, remarkable feat of the era. Over time, Atlantic steamships became the largest, most complex machines yet devised. They created a new transatlantic world of commerce and travel, reconciling former Anglo-American enemies and bringing millions of emigrants to transform the United States.
In Transatlantic, the experience of crossing the Atlantic is re-created in stunning detail from the varied perspectives of first class, steerage, officers, and crew. The dynamic evolution of the Atlantic steamer is traced from Brunel's Great Western of 1838 to Cunard's Mauretania of 1907, the greatest steamship ever built. Set against the classic tension of modern technology contending with a formidable natural environment, the story is rife with disasters. The key element is steam power: the universal, magical, transforming microchip of the nineteenth century.
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Stephen Fox, a freelance historian, is the author of five previous books. He lives near Boston, Massachusetts.From Publishers Weekly:
Freelance historian Fox chronicles the changes in transatlantic travel from 1820, when sailing ships took three weeks to cross the treacherous North Atlantic, through 1910, when huge steam-driven ocean liners made the passage in less than a week. No aspect of the remarkable transformation from wind to steam power is left unattended. Fox is as adept at explaining the engineering obstacles facing designers of efficient, safe steamships as he is at describing the charismatic personalities who drove the commercial rivalries and made the under-the-table agreements that dominated the industry. And there is ample drama in the story as steamship builders from Glasgow and London compete for prominence, ships race for the transatlantic crossing record and shipwrecks are caused by human folly and ill luck. For readers whose interest in the nuances of steam engines or paddle-wheel placement is limited, Fox also examines the human dynamics of a transatlantic crossing. His descriptions of the relationships between crew and passengers, first-class passengers and those in steerage, provide insights into the social milieu. The descriptions of life in steerage will intrigue the many Americans whose ancestors arrived after enduring the harrowing conditions, which, according to Fox, deteriorated noticeably in the 1880s, when the demographics of steerage passengers changed from western Europeans to eastern European and Jewish immigrants. Many readers will skip detailed descriptions of the interior dimensions and designs, the crossing times, and the tonnage and horsepower of a seemingly endless number of steamships. Still, Fox has fashioned a comprehensive and informative book. 32 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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