Portuguese Railway History and Kranzberg’s Laws: Looking at the Past, Preparing the Future

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In 1985, Melvin Kranzberg, at the time president of SHOT – Society for the History of Technology, summarised his three-decade long work around the relevance of context and human agency for technological implementation and development in six general principles that later became known as Kranzberg’s Laws. His reflections became very important and useful for the communities of historians and philosophers of technology, in the sense that they analyse critically the nature of technological systems and artefacts, their historical influence in society, and the entangled relationship between technologists, users, and the sociocultural contexts that surrounds them. In this chapter, I use Kranzberg’s Laws to analyse the historical evolution of the Portuguese railway system, since its inception in the 1850s to the current challenges faced by Portuguese policymakers. I offer that Kranzberg’s teachings are crucial to illustrate how the construction of railways in Portugal was a very much human activity, which contributes not only to understanding the past but also to face current challenges and problems.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking Technology and Engineering
Subtitle of host publicationDialogues Across Disciplines and Geographies
EditorsAlbrecht Fritzsche, Andrés Santa-Maria
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-25233-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-25232-7, 978-3-031-25235-8
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Print)1879-7202
ISSN (Electronic)1879-7210


  • Seamless web
  • Black box
  • Technological decision-making
  • Portugal


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