Since the beginning of time different innovations in transportation technology have interconnected different cultures through trade. Traditionally, trade and profit were the main motivation for transportation and exploration. With every new technology advancement in transportation, trade became faster and more economically efficient. One innovation that was particularly profitable was the invention of the steam engine. Transportation by water has always been the fastest and the most efficient in moving goods, but prior to the steam engine, water travel was limited to sailing. With the invention of the steam engine, products could now be transported quicker and without relying on wind or weather to travel. The steam engine created new possibilities and was the propelling factor that pushed society into a continuing process of globalization, the creation of a global economic market, and allowed for the start of mass international migration. The steam engine is also a prime example of how we as humans use diverse thinking and human ingenuity to improve our lifestyle.

Steam engine recolutionized the transportation industry, however, the first steam engines were not used for transportation. The first version of the steam engine, developed in England, was used to power the first Industrial Revolution. Its initial purpose was to replace the horse’s job in coal mines, which was to pump the water from the coal. The steam engine later replaced the horse for hauling purposes too, when it was applied to the development of the railroad and locomotive. Steam engines were also adapted to power looms and other new machinery the textile industry, driving the Industrial Revolution we know.[1] James Watt developed the first steam ship in 1769, which was used as an industrial hauling vessel until 1807. It was then when Robert Fulton, an American, designed the first commercial vessel that was to carry passengers from Albany to New York via the Hudson River. This steam engine was basic, yet a success, and fellow engineers continued to make improvements to the passenger steam ship. Steam technology continued to evolve at the hands of the revolutionary engineers of the time, and in 1843, Isambard Kingdom Brunel launched the first transatlantic steamer set for Great Britain.[2]

As steam ship innovations continued, wealth circulated and accumulated, crating large and powerful shipping firms all over the globe. The volume of products shipped overseas increased, as well as the amount of ships coming to trade at the ports located near large cities. This created a need for consistent global communication and scheduling to ensure the availability of space and services in the destination ports.[3] With eased international communication, new cultures were more frequently exposed to each other, and the globalization process began. Social interaction driven by trade are a key component of globalization, and acted as a kick start to the process in the nineteenth century. However, over time the meaning and understanding of globalization has changed, evolved, and spread to be applicable in every aspect of society; including politics and the economy.[4]

When the global trade system started in the nineteenth century, countries’ economies became reliant on both the products imported from other nations and the profit from exporting their own products. This system created a global economy that was dependent on every participating country to the extent that when one nation’s economy crashed, a chain reaction began, and several others would soon follow. Many world leaders quickly saw how the future of their nation’s economic stability relied heavily on the economic stability of all other nations partaking in global trade. Because of this, leaders invested themselves in international politics to ensure that other leaders would not fail to support their economy, because when a nation’s economy failed it threatened all other nations involved. Leaders began to endorse each other, showing political support for those that they believed would be beneficial to the global economy. A successful leader is necessary for a successful economy, therefore political systems all over the globe became intertwined in an effort to protect the global economy.[5]

Globalization and the global market were both results of the international steam liner in the 1800s, without which neither would be possible. Another result of the international steam ship was a large influx of immigrants during the ninetieth century. In 1838, shipping firms developed the SS Great Western, which was the first transatlantic passenger ship. This created a new competition between the shipping firms to provide customers with the cheapest fare and the fastest, most comfortable overseas passage.[6] The largest destination for migration at that time period was the United States because of its promise for economic opportunity. Because of steam ships, civilians who were not economically thriving in their home country now had the option to leave and make their home somewhere new in the hopes of an improved lifestyle. One of the largest migrations in history was from Ireland to the United States during the 1800s. The Irish potato famine hit its peak in 1846, wiping out Ireland’s main food source, and plaguing an already poverty-filled Ireland with starvation. Irish citizens had a choice to make: they could leave Ireland or face starvation. Between the 1840s and the end of the nineteenth century, steam powered ships carried more than six million Irish immigrants to the United States.[7]

The development of the steam ship was the turning point when people were able to leave their home and move to a new country on the other side of the world with ease, should they choose to do so. A common theme of migration that can be seen throughout history is that the main reason people travel is because they are hoping to make a profit. Before the steam engine was widely used for transportation, only entrepreneurs and merchants traveled regularly to trade; however, their migration was never permanent. People rarely left a twenty-mile radius of where they grew up, and international migration was incredibly uncommon. International migration at the time meant sailing, which was inefficient and could take a sailor several years to reach his or her destination. When the steam engine was introduced, people now had the option of moving greater distances in only months instead of years via the steam ship and the locomotive. These new technologies were also cheaper, which increased the likelihood that people would migrate away from where they were born.

Over the last two centuries, innovations in transportation technologies have continued to emerge. With every new method of transportation, migration has become lower in cost, time, and effort. People now are more likely to permanently migrate, and have begun to travel for reasons other than profit, such as leisure vacations; however, the main motivator for permanent, international migration persists to be economic opportunity.[8] However, whenever mass migration occurs, it is rarely voluntary and there are often many factors combining to push citizens out of their homes, economics only being one of them. For example, Syria recently began to experience a large portion of its population leaving the country because of politicized ethnic fragmentation, repression, and violence imposed by its civil war.[9] Over three million Syrians have fled to neighboring countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, and even European nations, hoping to seek asylum from their war-torn nation.[10] Mass migrations such as this would be much less likely to occur without access to inexpensive and practical transportation that has been developed and evolved during the last two centuries.

The development of the steam engine has been a vital factor in the globalization process. Without the steam ship or any more recent breakthroughs in transportation technology, our society would look entirely different. International trade would be less common and more expensive, more difficult, and much more time consuming. Additionally, intercontinental trade would occur even less frequently, due to the fact that ships would only be able to travel via sail, which can take several years to reach any destination. Without international and overseas trade, different cultures would not regularly intermingle, nor would their economies. This would mean the global economy would not exist, and nations’ political regimes and national economies successes would not be mutually dependent. Another significant change in society that occurred because of innovations in transportation is the new culture of traveling for hobby. Without affordable and time-efficient modes of transportation, vacationing—along with the entire tourist industry—would not exist. Without cultural, social, and political interconnection or economic dependency on a global scale, globalization would not be evident, and the world would not be considered globalized.

Of course, imagining this world without transportation and technology is challenging because our amazing ability to crate, invent, and innovate is part what makes us human. The steam engine pushed the nineteenth century into a spiraling and never-ending cycle of globalization, connecting the world in all aspects of our culture. Globalization persists today, and will persist in the future, continuing to connect and alter societies all over the globe.

Works Cited

Crist, Raymond E. “Migration and Population Change in the Irish Republic.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 30, no. 3 (1971): 253-58. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3485156.

Cuff, David, and Andrew S. Goodie. “Encyclopedia of Global Change – Oxford Reference.” Encyclopedia of Global Change – Oxford Reference. 2015. Accessed November 28, 2016. http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195108255.001.0001/acref-9780195108255.

Lang, Michael. “Globalization and Its History.” The Journal of Modern History 78, no. 4 (2006): 899-931.http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/511251

Mercoglaino, Salvator M. “Steamships.” Oxford Reference. 2008. Accessed August 30, 2016. http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195176322.001.0001/acref-9780195176322-e-1511

Sen, Mustafa. 2016. “The Syrian Puzzle: The Syrian Conflict: Explaining Main Causes of the Conflict.” Order No. 10141658, Mississippi State University. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1822287052?accountid=14902.

Talerico, Kate. 2016. “A Country in Ruins, an Education Disrupted by War.” University Wire, Mar 09. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1771438339?accountid=14902.

Whitcombe, Todd. “Who Gains From Globalization?” Prince George Citizen. July 12, 2016. Accessed August 29, 2016. http://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu:2052/hottopics/lnacademic/.

 

 

[1] Cuff, David, and Andrew S. Goodie. “Encyclopedia of Global Change – Oxford Reference.”

[2] Mercoglaino, Salvator M. “Steamships.” Oxford Reference. 2008. Accessed August 30, 2016.

[3] Mercoglaino, Salvator M

[4] Lang, Michael. “Globalization and Its History.” The Journal of Modern History 78, no. 4 (2006): 899-931

[5] Lang, Michael

[6] Mercoglaino, Salvator M

[7] Crist, Raymond E. “Migration and Population Change in the Irish Republic.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

[8] Whitcombe, Todd. “Who Gains From Globalization?” Prince George Citizen. July 12, 2016

[9] Sen, Mustafa. 2016. “The Syrian Puzzle: The Syrian Conflict: Explaining Main Causes of the Conflict.” Order No. 10141658, Mississippi State University.

[10] Talerico, Kate. 2016. “A Country in Ruins, an Education Disrupted by War.” University Wire, Mar 09