The Transport Revolution on Land and Sea: Farming, Fishing, and Railways in Great Britain, 1840-1914

Robert M. Schwartz 1
  • 1 Mount Holyoke College


The introduction and expansion of rapid rail transportation in Great Britain helped transform sea fishing and make fresh fish a new commodity of mass consumption. In agriculture the rail network greatly facilitated the shift from mixed cereal farming to dairy farming. To demonstrate the timing and extent of these changes in food production this article blends history and geography to create a spatial history of the subject. Using the computational tools of GIS and text mining, spatial history charts the expanding geography and size of the fresh fish industry and documents the growing concern among fishermen of over-fishing. In agricultural, huge flows of cheap wheat from the United states caused a crisis in British wheat farming, forcing many farmers to convert arable land to pasture for use in dairy farming. Given the growing demand for fresh milk in cities and increased availability of rapid rail transport in rural areas, dairy farming replaced wheat farming in outlying counties such as Wiltshire, the example examined here.

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