Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

“The mission to connect the East with the West”. Railroad construction projects and controversies (1850s-1860s)

Fri31  Mar12:45pm(15 mins)
Melville Room


Silvia Marton1
1 New Europe College, Bucharest, Romania


The first initiatives for building railways during the 1850s and the early 1860s in the Romanian Principalities were all about collaboration with foreign capital, since the emerging state heavily lacked financial resources and adequately skilled personnel but wished to become part of the wider Austrian and Ottoman railway network. While the first successful railway concession, connecting the capital to the Danube, was initiated in 1865 and accomplished in 1869, most concessions of the 1850s and 1860s stirred debates about the often-conflicting logic of integrating the Romanian provinces in the international railway system and the national developmental priorities.

This contribution will show that (a), from the perspective of the Romanian decision-makers, it was a negotiated and dynamic interplay between the state’s dependency on foreign capital, credits and knowledge, and the elites’ willingness to prove state capacity and even quasi-sovereignty during the period considered here. The paper will also focus on (b) the variable and contested meanings invested in the term “corruption”, on the discursive and political practices of its denunciation, and on its (social and political) role, utility, and rationality during the controversies and debates surrounding the first (mostly unsuccessful) railroad construction projects and concessions.