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Transportation and RevoltPigeons, Mules, Canals, and the Vanishing Geographies of Subversive Mobility$
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Jacob Shell

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780262029339

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262029339.001.0001

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Fly-Boaters, Filibusters, and Canals

Fly-Boaters, Filibusters, and Canals

(p.63) 3 Fly-Boaters, Filibusters, and Canals
Transportation and Revolt

Jacob Shell

The MIT Press

This chapter begins with a question which has long been of interest to many transportation historians and historical geographers: why did the canal era end in the British North Atlantic political domains of Britain, Ireland and Canada during the late 19th and early 20th centuries? In seeking to answer this question, the chapter highlights negative social and political attitudes towards the people who worked along the canals of Britain and Ireland during the 19th century. It also points to the logistical importance of the canals and canal boat workers in several Irish anti-imperial political revolts which occurred during the mid-19th century, noting that during these rebellious groundswells, political officials perceived the railroad networks as easier to control and secure. Calling into question simplistically economic-determinist, “whiggish” explanations for the end of the canal era in the British domains, the chapter proposes that these transportative divestments must be understood in relation to a political tension between subversive anti-imperial mobilities and top-down efforts at counter-subversion and control.

Keywords:   Canals, Canal Boatpeople, Irish Revolt, Fenians, Ribbonists, Transatlantic Irish, Canadian Confederation

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