Railways and the Making of Modern Mobilities in the British Empire: Case Studies of India and British East Africa, 1853-1939.

Diane Drummond

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


In 1892 Sir Harry H Johnston, Special Commissioner in Uganda during the construction of the British East Africa Railway (1899-1901), argued that the railway would not only open up Kenya and Uganda to British and Indian settlement, but also introduce indigenous African tribes to modern forms of mobility through their integration into the British globalising economy.
This vision of the railways making 'modern mobilities' was nothing new to the British. It lay at the very heart of how they imagined their Empire during the later nineteenth century. Railroads helped take millions of British across the Empire. From 1853, when the British were shocked by the huge number of Indians who travelled by the newly-introduced train, fresh forms of spatial, economic, social and cultural mobilities developed on the subcontinent. For Indians and East Africans work on the railway took them from their home and indigenous culture, providing sites of inter-racial contact and conflict, while also creating a world-wide diaspora.
The proposed paper examines how the British imagined the role of the railway in developing 'modern mobilities', and how far this vision was turned into reality. India and British East Africa between 1853-1939 will be used as case studies. An interdisciplinary approach informed by historical, cultural and mobility studies, and as seen in Marian Aguiar, Tracking Mobility: India’s Railways and the Culture of Mobility, University of Minnesota Press, 2011, is employed.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 17 Apr 2015
EventInterdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies - Atlanta, Georgia, Atlanta, United States
Duration: 16 Apr 201519 Apr 2015

Academic conference

Academic conferenceInterdisciplinary Nineteenth Century Studies
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Mobilities
  • Railways
  • India
  • British East Africa


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