Railway Effects on Population Change

Catholic priests bless a railway engine in Calais, 1848
Catholic priests bless a railway engine in Calais, 1848

Thomas Thevenin, et al, “Measuring one century of railway accessibility and population change in France. A historical GIS approach,” Journal of Transport Geography, Volume 56, October 2016, pp. 62–76.

From the introduction to the article: “This article presents an innovative study of the relationship between railway accessibility and population change in France from 1860 to 1930. Using a large, geo-historical database and spatial analysis, it identifies key advantages of historical GIS in transport history as well as its limitations. It illustrates the challenges of creating reliable data on population change for the 36,000 communes of France over eight decades and integrating them with the main and local lines of the evolving French railways system. In so doing, it reexamines the structuring effect of railway expansion over the long period in which rail transport was the predominant means of moving goods and passengers over long distances. The increasing speed of rapid transport–part of the “speed revolution” according to Studeny (1995) – reshaped territorial spaces and spatial relationships, in effect, shrinking the space-time connectivity of communities with accessible rail service, and augmenting that of communities not well so served. The “conquest of space” by railways was thus not homogeneous, even, or continuous, but fractured, uneven, and discontinuous (Fishlow, 1965, Fogel, 1962 and Garrison, 1990). In transportation research and planning, measures of accessibility are often used to determine the efficiency of new infrastructure in terms of travel time and population served (Chapelon, 1997 and Kwan et al., 2003): our project examines the identification of rail infrastructure structures and demographic change by investigating the relative accessibility of rail transport in France between 1860 and 1930. . . .”

(If you do not have free access to the article, you can likely request a free copy through your library’s Interlibrary Loan program.)

~Thanks to Asha W Agrawal for this post

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