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Railroads of the Glorious Empires in the late 19th Century: From the Great Game to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5

Author:Semiha Karaoglu

Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.4 (2021), pp.65-91
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: Railroads, Great Game, Russo-Japanese War, Japan, imperialism, Lüshun, India, Britain



Railroads have been an inevitable part of countries’ expansionist and imperialist policies throughout history. Easing commodity distribution as well as human mobility, railroads also provided the transfer of knowledge and became a means of intelligence sharing. In this view, one can plausibly observe that nations are inclined to allocate budgets for railroad construction in order to extend their power. Moreover, they also followed expansionist policies by constructing ‘transitive’ railroads, connecting extensive regions, or even continents. Hence, investigating railroads sheds light on world history, for it enables one to comprehend the ultimate motives countries had before embarking upon such endeavors. The present research, therefore, analyzes railroad construction, focusing on the nineteenth century. It commences by introducing a brief history of the railroad construction around the globe. Then, it moves on to the Great Game theory and analyzes how the rivalry between the British and Russian Empires increased the speed of constructions with imperialist and expansionist policies behind them. This research also elucidates what impacts railroads built by the Russian Empire had on the Empire of Japan, and how it led to the escalation of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5. Moreover, it focuses on the conflicts taking place between the Russian Empire and the United States, in connection to their impacts on the British Empire. In conclusion, the paper demonstrates a trend of how railroads shaped world history, taking into account the example of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5.