A Brief History of Transportation

The Steam Engine

Transportation is filled with paradigm shifts. Our view of the world is greatly influenced by how and where we can travel, and changes in our methods of travel can change how we view the world. I explore a brief history of some of these great changes and how they affected our paradigm of our world.

Initially, humans relied on their own limbs to move themselves. Walking and occasionally swimming were the only ways to get from one place to another. The first revolution occurred when animals were domesticated and used for travel. The sturdy back of an ox or a horse could carry ten times as much as even the strongest person could. Travel became fast and easy (not for the animals!). Cities could now trade raw materials, finished goods, and food much more easily and quickly. Agile animals served as soldiers’ legs. This major change revolutionized both economy and war.

The first instance of a human-built vehicle was the boat. The creation of boats made waterways the highways of the ancient world (and quite a while after). The current never tired, so travel by boat required minimal energy and accommodated a large amount of cargo. As waterways emerged as vital possessions, naval warfare also became important. Once again, this form of transportation revolutionized economy and warfare.

In addition to vast improvement on existing technologies, the Industrial Revolution saw the creation of the steam engine, the first instance where neither human or animal muscles were required. This led to the invention of rail roads and major developments in water travel. Furthermore, the telegraph made communication separate from transportation, a major change in both fields.

The only remaining leaps in transportation technology are the automobile and the airplane. While there were and will always be continual advancements, the initial invention of each truly represented a revolution. The result was that transportation became much easier and travel became viable for longer distances and faster speeds.

With these changes, we have seen the world get smaller as our ability to traverse it gets larger. Transportation serves as the circulatory system of civilization, allowing resources and people to get where they want. Advancements in transportation are part of the cause of greater expansion and invention, and the reverse is true as well. Brief consideration of this subject reveals truly that transportation has affected our view of the world and how much of it we see.

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