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Developments in transport and trade in the 19th century (railways, telegraph, steam-ships) accelerated in the 20th century (jet aircraft, containerisation), contributing to a 'shrinking world'.

19th Century

  • Steam trains replaced horse-drawn carts and boats in canals as it provided faster transportation. In 1804, the first steam locomotive was successfully used in South Wales. The first commercially successful steam train was built for the Middleton Railway in 1812 in Leeds. The first public railway was the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, built in 1930.

  • In 1837, the electric telegraph became the first form of instant communication, able to operate over longer distances than ever achieved before (made by Samuel Morse, who also invented Morse code). In 1858 the first transatlantic telegraph was constructed, replacing a three week boat journey (which would often be disrupted by storms) with Morse code messages that were delivered in less than a day.

  • The first iron steamship used was the Aaron Manby, built in 1821. These ships used similar technology to steam trains, as the engines were virtually identical. Their lack of reliance on wind opened up new trade routes, and their faster speeds than sailing ships allowed for goods to be transported to more places and quicker.

20th Century

  • The first jet aircraft in was built in 1939, replacing the steam ship as the primary mode of transportation for trade due to its much faster travel times. The popularisation of the Boeing 747 after its release in 1968 introduced international tourism to the middle class, as the lower cost of air travel allowed for more to buy flights for vacations.

  • Containerisation is often characterised as the continuation of steam ship development, as larger container ships were adapted from those used since the early 1800's. They reduced costs by lowering the price of break bulk cargo, achieving economies of scale (as these ships could carry unprecedented quantities of goods), and cutting down on labour as the process of moving containers from the ports is easily mechanised. The standardised, inter-modal containers have allowed for smoother transition to distribution services at ports, saving time. Today, there are 5461 fully cellular container ships with a combined capacity of 24.6 million TEU's (Twenty-foot equivalent units). Shipping a TV from China to the UK costs under £1.

Shrinking world

Due to the rapid advancements in transportation technologies since the 19th century, the distances between places are slowly becoming perceived as less than once thought. This is known as the process of time-space compression: the effect as a result of further connectivity between distant places, and contributes towards a shrinking world.

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