King's College London
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Imperial designs: technology and empire in the 19th century

Pleasure of the passage

Decorative title page.Title page from 'Illustrated guide of the Orient Line of steamers between England & Australia'.By the end of the 19th century, travel between Britain and Australia had become a journey to be undertaken not only for the purposes of emigration or colonial business, but also for leisure.

As well as accommodating British tourists, the ships took a growing Australian moneyed class, many rich on the proceeds of the gold rush, on grand tours of Europe. Advancements in steamships’ capabilities saw reduced journey times, and the voyage could be a pleasant experience, rather than a purely functional (and sometimes perilous) trip.

As well as this reciprocal flow of people, other facets of the relationship between colonies and the ‘mother country’ saw increased traffic through steamships. Mail was sent from and to relatives who had emigrated, and there was a growing demand for instruments, machinery and consumables to furnish colonies’ development.

The Orient Line steamships handled cargo and passengers travelling on the Australasian route; others, such as the African Steamship Company, provided transit to and from other parts of the empire.

Advertisement page with image of the Horton Kirby paperworks, South Darenth, Kent set within various advertisements for goods and equipment.Advertisement page featuring an illustration of a paperworks in Kent.This book was produced on behalf of the Orient Line Company and every aspect of the journey is covered, for the perusal of the prospective passenger. It is introduced by an attractive title page and advertisement feature, shown here.

There is advice on visiting locations in Britain and Australia, plans of the ships, a ‘passengers’ track chart’ and even a list of standard guidebooks to countries that passengers may visit en route. Such a passage might involve stopping off in places like Naples or the Holy Land and the experience offered those who could afford it the opportunity to embark on a memorable cruise.

Pictorial advertisements in the work advise passengers where to purchase leisure goods such as whisky, pianos and furniture, while other advertisements - for industrial machinery, freehold land and refrigeration equipment - offer suggestions of the many commercial opportunities that empire offered.

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