Mass Transit in World History

Liam Moore's picture

Hi All,

I am looking for resources regarding mass transit (metro,rail, and other networks) in World History. Not looking for any one region in particular. Any suggestions on books, articles, and other resources which examine mass transit from a world historical lens woule be greatly appreciated.  


Liam Moore

Categories: Discussion

Dear Liam,

It can be difficult to find comprehensive histories that address non-Euro-American histories in that regard, but there are several books that I can recommend as a starting point:

-Fraser and Spalding ed., Trains, Culture, and Mobility: Riding the Rails (Lexington Books, 2012)
-Harvard UP's "A History of the World" series (see esp. Chapter 4 of Rosenberg ed., A World Connecting:1870-1945)
Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton UP, 2015; see esp. Chapter IV, "Mobilities")

I hope that these are useful to you. There are, of course, many more to choose from, but the books listed above should provide a good place to begin.

All best,
Jeffrey C. Guarneri
PhD Candidate
Department of History
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Hi Liam,

more country-specific studies I can think of are:

Elisabeth Köll, Railroads and the Transformation of China
Steven Ericson, The Sound of the Whistle: Railroads and the State in Meiji Japan
Ritika Prasad, Tracks of Change: Railways and Everyday Life in Colonial India
John D. Wong, 'Flexible Corporate Nationality: Transforming Cathay Pacific for the Shifting Geopolitics of Hong Kong in the Closing Decades of British Colonial Rule'
Valeska Huber, Channelling Mobilities: Migration and Globalisation in the Suez Canal Region and Beyond, 1869-1914

Hope this helps.


Dear Liam,

In addition to the suggestions already offered here, and with apologies for self-promotion, I'd suggest:

Chastain, A. B. (2020). "Rethinking Basic Infrastructure: French Aid and Metro Development in Postwar Latin America. Comparativ, 30(1/2), 128–141.

And this brief historiographic essay: Chastain, A. B. (2014). "Moving the Masses: Toward a History of Public Transport in Postwar Latin America." In Mobility in History: The Yearbook for the International Association for the History of Transport, Traffic, and Mobility. Vol 5. 89-95.

In addition, Dhan Zunino Singh has also published extensively about mass transit and cultures of mobility in Argentina and more broadly. On streetcars in Latin America, see works by Anton Rosenthal and Georg Leidenberger. There are other important works on mass transit in Latin America but these are good starting points.

Please feel free to email me for PDFs of the first two pieces. Best wishes on your research!

Andra Chastain