Expertise and policy-making: Main actors, debates and outcomes in the making of the Portuguese railway network (1850–90)

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Abstract

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Portugal built the main branches of its railway system. In this paper, I will use technical and military reports, parliamentary debates and sundry bibliography to analyse the influence of the different stakeholders. I investigated the expectations, priorities and agendas of engineers, army officers, policymakers and lobbyists in the design of the Portuguese railway network. I argue that historiography about Portuguese railways usually considers the rationale behind their discussion as entirely technological and focuses mainly on their outputs, taking railways for granted, or black-boxed. However, the planification of large transportation systems depends on the sociotechnical context and on hierarchies of power of their time. I will show that experts (mostly engineers) played a decisive role in the planning of the network, but a large part of its design was due to non-technical issues, including political machinations, budgetary constraints and corporative lobbying.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberUNSP 0022526620908585
JournalJournal of Transport History
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Apr 2020

Keywords

  • black-boxing
  • Planning
  • policy-making
  • Saint-Simonianism

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