Small World

This is another quick reblog from Futility Closet. Their original post can be found here. But don’t worry! There will be some original content on Friday when I explain how the transatlantic cable (and, indeed, the other cable systems discussed below) led to mass-scale Victorian mermaid porn.

You heard me right.


“A striking example of the strength of the British Empire in the early 20th century: In 1911 Britain completed the ‘All Red Line,’ a network of telegraphs that linked its possessions. The system was so redundant that an enemy would have had to cut 49 cables to isolate the United Kingdom, 15 to isolate Canada, or 5 to isolate South Africa. As a result, British communications remained uninterrupted throughout World War I.

“Sir Sandford Fleming described the network as “the cerebro-spinal axis of our political system … through which would freely pass the sensory impressions and the motor impulses of the British people in every longitude.”

“Related: In Air Facts and Problems (1927), Secretary of State for Air Christopher Thomson noted that the whole empire might be visited by an aircraft capable of ‘long hops’:

‘For the purposes of the immediate future a ‘long hop’ may be taken as 1,500 miles in length. One such hop would cover the distance from the south coast of England to Malta, a second would reach Egypt, a third Bushire (on the Persian Gulf), a fourth India, at Karachi or Bombay, a fifth Ceylon, a sixth the Straits Settlements, a seventh Port Darwin in Northern Australia; three more would reach New Zealand.

Thus, in ten ‘long hops,’ or ten days and nights, the traveller and the mailbag out of England would arrive in the most distant of our dominions without landing at an air station which was not either British or under British control.’

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One Response to Small World

  1. Christopher Thomson seems to be in an almost prophetic mood here, as a quick look at the routes flown by Imperial Airways would show. If I could travel through time the first thing that I would do would be to fly in one of their magnificent Handley Page HP42 and HP45 biplane airliners. Not that things always went as planned on their flights. On one occasion one of their aircraft was forced down by a sandstorm. When the rescue team arrived they found that the passengers and crew had been forced off at gunpoint by Bedouins. They had then hitched the aircraft to a team of camels and were attempting to drag it away to sell as scrap. Life sounds like it was much more fun in those days…


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