The railways and the making of upland Britain: the lifecycle of an envirotechnical regime

Johnson, Ciaran (2022) The railways and the making of upland Britain: the lifecycle of an envirotechnical regime. Doctoral thesis, Northumbria University.

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This thesis explores the industrial and post-industrial development of the Dartmoor landscape, focussing on the Princetown Railway, its associated granite industry, and the surrounding communities. Covering 1800 to the 1960s, it explores how the railway and quarry developments were shaped by social, economic and political events, and examines the wider influence of the moor itself. The research employs an envirotechnical approach, where environmental history, science and technology studies, and social history meet. Railways were keystones of envirotechnical regimes, and important agents of social, cultural and environmental change. Despite this, their history has not been subject to this framework. The story of this regime is continued after closure of the railway in 1956, when the newly created National Park actively removed traces of the railway.

Divided into four thematic chapters, the thesis begins with granite speculation on the moor, relating it to developing moral and aesthetic sensibilities and judgements, and the emerging professional and legal frameworks. The development of the railway forms the basis of the second chapter, which explores the question of who benefitted from its construction. The third chapter explores the communities created by the influx of quarry workers, and the place of the workers in shaping cultural perceptions of the moor. The final chapter looks at the evolution of attitudes towards landscapes, analysing the rationale behind the naturalising of industrial structures, and the process of removing traces of the railway.

Drawing on a wide range of sources, from contemporary journals, minutes of board meetings, professional and personal correspondence, the press and travel writing, this thesis challenges the preservationist view of Dartmoor as a site of failed industrialisation. It shows how Dartmoor’s landscape is the product of a wide range of decisions and influences, which have affected both its physical appearance, and its place in politics, economics and culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dartmoor, landscape history, granite quarrying, deindustrialisation, national parks
Subjects: L100 Economics
L200 Politics
L700 Human and Social Geography
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
University Services > Graduate School > Doctor of Philosophy
Depositing User: John Coen
Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2023 07:52
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2023 08:00

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