Region, nation and culture on the British waterways, 1761-1894

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


This chapter considers the ways in which writing about Britain's canals, from the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal to the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal, took influence from, framed, and contributed to contemporaneous discourses of region and nation. It proposes that, while schemes and management were often local affairs concerned with specific regional trade and industry interests, successes were considered to be British, with engineering and organisational innovation seen as national points of pride. Writing about the waterways contributed to the overwhelming sense in this period that Britain was a modern (perhaps the modern) nation, despite its ancient institutions and the fact that it often followed the lead of others in canal technology. The chapter thus takes the well-understood early history of the waterways and considers the ways in which they were represented in relation to discourses of region, nation, and modernity of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, using interpretive methodologies from historical, literary, and social/cultural studies to interrogate a national social hydrological discourse. It connects specialist waterways history to the larger question of nationhood to demonstrate the ways in which an understanding of historical representation offers insight into the cultural dynamics of water management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cultural Dynamics in Water Management from Ancient History to the Present Age
EditorsXiao Yun Zheng
PublisherIWA Publishing
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781789062045
ISBN (Print)9781789062038
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021


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