Representations of progress in Bordalo’s Pinheiro drawings of the railway industry

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The nineteenth century in Portugal was indelibly marked by the construction of railways both in the mainland and in its overseas domains, as a trademark of a development agenda historically known as Fontismo, after its main promoter, engineer and statesman, Fontes Pereira de Melo. By the eve of the First World War the network in the mainland extended throughout around 3,000 km (Valério 2001); in the colonies, track mileage reached 3,500 km (Marçal 2018). The investment sought different goals: to connect Portugal’s harbours more effectively with Europe; to modernize the national transport system, which is archaic – to say the least; to stitch together a country separated by sundry geographical obstacles (Alegria 1988). Another important goal was to modernize the country, to put it in a path of progress and – in a day and age where science and technology were the gauge to measure each nation’s present value and past worth (Adas 1989) – to advertise Portugal as a modern, technologically-prone, and civilized member of the concert of nations (Diogo 2003).
Fontismo in general, and railway building in particular, left a strong mark in the primary sources available to historians, both textual (bills, laws, reports, correspondence, debates, statistics) and iconographical (photos, paintings, technical and popular drawings). In this paper, I analyse the latter category, and specifically hand-made drawings and cartoons of Portuguese caricaturist and cartoonist, Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, published in two journals: Pontos nos ii (1885-1891) and O Antonio Maria (1879-1899). The main goal is to examine the representations (Moscovici 2005) of progress in the works of one of the leading artists of the time.
My analysis will be focused on those drawings that depict the railway itself (its rolling stock and engineering works) and its surrounding landscape. However, I will also include those sketches that portray the railway’s users and system builders (Hughes 1983) – engineers, politicians, financiers that contributed to their implementation in the country – in different moments, either during the inauguration or during the decision-making processes that preceded construction.
Adas, Michael (1989). Machines as the Measure of Men. Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
Alegria, Maria Fernanda (1988). “Política ferroviária do Fontismo. Aspectos da construção e do financiamento da rede”. Revista de História Económica e Social, n.º 23, pp. 43-64.
Diogo, Maria Paula (2003). “Engenharia e Modernidade. Os Engenheiros Portugueses entre as Obras Publicas e a Indústria”. Boletim da Sociedade Portuguesa de Química, n.º 88, pp. 13-17.
Hughes, Thomas Parker (1983). Networks of Power. Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Moscovici, Serge (2005). Representações sociais. Investigações em psicologia social. Petrópolis: Vozes.
Navarro, Bruno J. (2018). Um Um Império Projectado pelo «Silvo da Locomotiva». O papel da engenharia portuguesa na apropriação do espaço colonial africano. Angola e Moçambique (1869-1930). Lisboa: Colibri.
Valério, Nuno (2001). Estatísticas Históricas Portuguesas. Lisboa: Instituto Nacional de Estatística.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Jun 2019
EventRepresentations of the self and the other in the satiric image: From the French Revolution to today - Lisbon, Portugal
Duration: 27 Jun 201928 Jun 2019


ConferenceRepresentations of the self and the other in the satiric image: From the French Revolution to today


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