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The polities of a new technology : Electricity and the city railway in London and Paris, c.1880-1910

Author(s): Carlos López Galviz

Journal: Métropoles
ISSN 1957-7788

Issue: 6;
Date: 2009;
Original page

Keywords: Paris | London | electricity | fin de siècle technologies | comparative metropolitan history

Using electricity in railway operation became a real option towards the end of the nineteenth century. Cities were, generally, the main recipients and instigators of its introduction as the new technology was to help alleviate the often insufficient provision of means of urban transport. Its introduction, however, was largely dependent on the political and business cultures inherent in the specific context of each city. In London, competition and the business interests were a fundamental part of the process while, in Paris, the definition of a collective interest constituted one of the most significant conditions prior to the execution of any plan. In this contribution, I will look at the way in which the polities of the English and French capitals determined how the conception and operation of a particular means of urban transport, the city railway, were transformed by electricity. In so doing, I will provide a characterisation of the extent to which the adoption of a new technology of transport was both a result and an important part of the process of transforming London and Paris into modern constructs.
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