Regeneração e caminhos-de-ferro (1850‒1900): Railways during the Regeneration Period

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Construction of the Portuguese national railway network began in 1852, with a 30-year delay from England, France or Belgium. Throughout the second half of the 19th century, Portugal sought to recover from this delay and to build a railway grid that placed the country closer to the rest of Europe, while simultaneously modernising the nation’s mobility system and putting it in the path of progress. By the end of the 19th century, the network spread throughout 3,000 km from the northern province of Minho to the southern regions of the Algarve. One of the main goals of the investment was to connect Lisbon to the commercial fluxes of the European core. In a perfect application of the saintsimonianist ideology (assimilated by Portuguese engineers attending French
engineering schools since the 1840s), railways would overcome the national
borders and turn Lisbon into a mandatory relay point for the global commercial movement between the Old and the New Worlds. Over time, this globalising dream transformed into a technodiplomatic
nightmare, due to the lack of collaboration of neighbouring Spain. Nevertheless, if railways did not turn Lisbon into the pier of Europe, they contributed to create a civilisation of internal circulation, albeit limited by the exiguity of the network, the lack of roads, and the geographic obstacles. At the same time, by diminishing the length of internal journeys from several days into a few hours, it contributed to unify the nation, which until then was disconnected between itself (both in the economic and political-administrative sense of the word), due to the natural obstacles and the lack of a modern transportation system. In this chapter, I will build upon these concepts and representations to illus‑ trate how railways, based upon a sturdy engineering class, promoted the construction of a rhetoric of modernity in Portugal throughout the Regeneração.
Original languagePortuguese
Title of host publicationCiência, Tecnologia e Medicina na Construção de Portugal
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 3: Identidade e «Missão Civilizadora» — Séc. XIX
EditorsAna Isabel Simões, Maria Paula Diogo, Ana Carneiro, Teresa Salomé Mota, Isabel Amaral
Place of PublicationLisboa
PublisherTinta da China
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)978-989-671-598-4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021


  • Circulation
  • Globalisation
  • Appropriation
  • Saint-simonian‑ ism

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