Hist 3813- Gruszczynska-The Evolution of Transportation

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Introduction M2003.145.1 MP-0000.25.30 M982X.547.1.24 M303 II-141576 MP-0000.1135.10 VIEW-2218.1 II-42312.1
 

Introduction

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the means of transportation for individuals living in this post-industrial society vary greatly from the methods of travel used by people that lived in primitive Hunter-Gatherer societies. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in eighteenth century Europe, the methods of transport employed by individuals were revolutionized, as the steam powered railways replaced the outdated horse drawn carriages and sailboats. As societies evolved from simple to more complex, their methods of transporting people and goods drastically transformed as technological advancements enabled scientists to create faster, more reliable transportation systems.

To begin, the primitive means of transportation used by Hunter-Gatherer societies were in stark contrast to the methods of travel that were invented during the Industrial Revolution. These simple societies, characterized by their nomadic lifestyle, made them heavily reliant on their physical strength to cover large distances by foot. Over time, the canoe was incorporated as a mechanism for short and long distance travel, as it accelerated and picked up speed relatively quickly because it was propelled forwards by underwater river currents. Eventually, sailboats replaced canoes, as they enabled people to travel greater distances, and could transport more people and goods in a single voyage. One of the most famous transatlantic voyages made with the use of the sailboat was that of Christopher Columbus, when he sailed from Europe to North America in 1492. However, sailboats and canoes did have their drawbacks, as they were dependent on the forces of nature and needed a hospitable climate in order to be an efficient means of transportation.

As societies evolved from primitive nomadic lifestyles to more Agrarian ones, people began to establish permanent residences and instituted subsistence farming. With this societal evolution from nomadic to Agrarian, came the domestication of wild animals such as horses. Not only did horses make farming life easier as they were able to transport food, but they also conveniently became popular for travel, as they were able to transport people across greater distances than they would be able to travel if they were to make the journey by foot. Furthermore, people began to develop clever ways of utilizing a horse's physical strength in order to transport more people and goods more comfortably. For instance, during the summer months, a horse-drawn cart became the most prominent means of transportation for individuals living during this time, as it enabled farmers to transport their goods more efficiently in a short period of time. In the winter months, a horse-drawn sleigh would prevail, as it would be able to glide through the harsh winter weather, such as snow and ice, more effectively than a cart with wheels could. A horse however, had several shortcomings, as it was by nature a living animal, which was vulnerable to many illnesses and was limited to the amount of terrain it could cover, as the animal could eventually physically deteriorate. As a result, the horse, being the most efficient means of transportation at this time prior to the industrial revolution, was not very reliable one.

The emergence of the Industrial Revolution during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Great Britain, facilitated more sophisticated modes of transportation, as steam powered ships and railways that travelled at vast speeds for great distances. Not only were the steamships and locomotives more efficient as a means of transportation, but they were also more reliable then a horse-propelled carriage, as they were not susceptible to the physical exhaustion that an animal would be. Public transportation developed during this time, as the Trolley system became prevalent in the highly urbanized city centres, and was fast and efficient as it was accelerated by an overhead electric current. In addition, with the advent of steamships, the time it took for a successful transatlantic voyage was significantly reduced, as the speed of the steam engines far surpassed the speed of a sailboat. The steamship no longer was completely vulnerable to the hostile weather conditions of the Atlantic Sea, as a mechanical engine propelled it. Furthermore, the steam powered locomotives significantly reduced the time it took to transport people and goods to a particular destination, as the speed and longevity of the travel exceeded the capabilities of anything that a horse could pull. Moreover, with the mass production of the standard automobile, individuals mobility increased, as they were able to travel from rural areas to more urbanized cities in a relatively short amount of time. With the mass production of cars, also came the emergence of the motorcycle, which was cheaper to afford for the average person during this time. Also, the industrial revolution facilitated many products to be produced on a massive scale, such as the Bicycle, therefore making it widely accessible to the populace during this time. As the industrial revolution ushered in an era of capitalistic notions of profit making, many people needed to become more mobile as they had to transport their goods and products to various places.

Finally, the evolution of the means of transportation can be most notably apparent in the post-industrial society of the twenty-first century, characterised by significant technological innovations and scientific advancements made to improve our methods of travelling. Prior to the post-industrial societies, human mobility was restricted to land and sea, as we had inadequate scientific knowledge of creating machines that would enable us to travel in the skies. However, the technological achievements made during the post-industrial era, have enabled us to develop very efficient and fast means of transportation, such as the first successful aeroplane by Orville and Wilbur Wright in 1903. Soon afterward, in the 1960's, the age of space exploration developed, and it would not take long before an American Astronaut, Neil Armstrong, set foot on the moon in 1969.