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Railroads were an essential part to the Industrial Revolution as not only were they a way to connect Europe to other nations, allowing for larger empires to be formed, but also in that they were cheap, and a mode of transportation that was much faster and more efficient than what there had been before. Railroad construction had the main objective of helping European nations expand their empires and develop colonies within them, but saw side effects such as other nations creating a nationalistic attitude and having more self pride.
Railroad construction saw some nations develop nationalistic attitudes and more self pride. This can be seen in the British Indian Association petition to the British colonial government (Doc 1.) This petition states that upper-caste Hindus are often mistreated while on and waiting for second class trains. The Hindus have been hit and have to stand with the masses of people, they compare this to how slaves were transported on the middle passage. In addition to the treatment of upper-caste Hindus, the respect for women has been negatively affected by the railway system.
Britain has started to administer direct rule in this time period and the upper-caste Hindus are trying to get the government to act upon this situation of mistreatment. The Hindus are complaining of there being no respect towards them, solely due to their social stature. This idea of upper-caste Hindus having complaints can be further connected to the Indian National Congress, which was formed later on. This congress was made up of upper-caste, Western educated Hindus who were seeking equal treatment of Hindus and British.
This can also be seen in the Ottoman government report (Doc 3.)
This report states how constructing a railroad from Damascus to Mecca would be of benefit to the Muslim people as travel to holy cities, such as Mecca and Medina, is presently a problem as they either travel a treacherous journey on a camel, or use western ships and get humiliated in the process. However, building this railroad would solve that and make the Muslims more willing to make their pilgrimage to Mecca, along with showing the power of the Caliph. The report is written persuasively as the effects of having a railroad would please the sultan. At this point in time, the Ottoman’s wanted to address the growing Western influence and power and felt that they would be doing so with the construction of a railroad. Lastly, this is seen in Sir Henry Norman’s editorial (Doc 5.)
The editorial states how the Trans-Siberian railroad would allow Russia to be able to dominate Asia, as now other nations are sleeping on the idea of having influence there and if they later wanted to have that influence, they would be unable, as Russia would be there with a solidified presence. This document shows the British and Russian rivalry as it mentions England sleeping on territory and if that is continued, it would be unacquirable. Norman wrote this as a means to motivate the people and the government, as stated earlier, Britain is sleeping on the Asian territory and this may start to wake them up.
Railroad construction was also seen as a way to greatly expand the power and influence of many nations. This is seen in the Shen Baozhen memo to the Qing court (Doc 2.) This memo states that the Qing government should be in favor of constructing a railroad, as by doing so they would be able to get future benefits and it would provide jobs for the poor people. However, they would only construct it if the Western nations would follow the rules of not damaging any land or property.
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