‘The Great Event of the Fortnight’: Steamship Rhythms and Colonial Communication

This paper engages with Tim Cresswell’s ‘contellations of mobility’ in order to contribute some understanding of historical maritime rhythms. The empirical focus is upon a steamship mail service in the post-emancipation Caribbean. In examining this communications network, it is stressed that while those managing the network valorised predictable efficiency, ‘friction’ was prized by mercantile groups at the steamers’ ports of call. Thus, the different aspects of mobility signified differently across the network, and this historical case study reinforces the resonance of slowness and stoppage time. The synchronisation of steamship arrivals with sociocultural norms in the Caribbean colonies also necessitated the adaptation of mail service rhythms. Through a focus on shipping operations, this paper proposes to temper the understanding of the role of steamship technology in empire. The influence of colonies on the metropole encompassed an alteration of the rhythms of imperial circulation, and it is within the maritime arena that these realities came into sharp focus.


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  • Accession Number: 01538994
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Sep 5 2014 3:00PM