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Talk: ‘Annihilating Space & Time’

Brunel's SS Great Britain

Dry dock

'Annihilating Space & Time’: Disruptive technologies in the 19th century

15 November 2018

5.30pm - 7pm

Free to attend - book online

Join this free public talk and discover the historic changes in migration, international relations and cultural transfer brought about in the steam-powered 19th century. 


Hosted by Dr. James Boyd, the SS Great Britain Trust’s Brunel History Fellow, 'Annihilating Space & Time' explores developments in 19th century transport and the changes they brought in human migration, information transfer and international relations.

Disruptive technologies generate unprecedented change in our societies, economies and everyday lives. Since the revolutionary era of the 18th century, each successive generation has experienced irreversible change, and been presented with unprecedented challenges and opportunities.

Among those developments, few are as visible as revolutions in human mobility. During the 19th century, it became possible for human beings to traverse oceans quickly, cheaply, and easily. Steam technology replaced sail, and ships transformed the human world.

The opportunity to live and work globally became a reality. The pace and rate of global communication was suddenly unparalleled. Information, investment, goods and ideas spread with previously impossible speeds, transforming available knowledge and experiences even for those who did not traverse the ocean. And while the new technologies that mechanised ocean transport revolutionised migration, knowledge and consumption, they also generated fear and paranoia between states and peoples.

The formative space of this revolution was the Atlantic World. 'Annihilating Space & Time' discusses a period of transformation brought to western society by steam on the ocean, caused by changes and challenges with which we are still intimately familiar, and the effects of which we still feel.