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[ATHENA] CFP- Rail Routes from the Baghdad Railway to the New Silk Road (19th to 21st Centuries) , Turkey 2-5 Nov 2016

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  • Subject: [ATHENA] CFP- Rail Routes from the Baghdad Railway to the New Silk Road (19th to 21st Centuries) , Turkey 2-5 Nov 2016
  • Date: Thu, 31 Mar 2016 09:01:21 +0200
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Call for Papers

Rail Routes from the Baghdad Railway to the New Silk Road (19th to 21st
Centuries) – Utopian Dreams, Past Achievements, and Future Prospects for Rail
Transport between Europe and the Middle and Far East

7th International International Conference on Railway History in the historic
sta-tion of Haydarpaça in Istanbul (Turkey) from 2nd to 5th November 2016.
Organ-ised by the International Railway History Association (IRHA), and
supported by the Turkish Railways (TCDD), and the International Union of
Railways (UIC)

The dream of a transcontinental railway connection between Europe and Asia
dates back to the beginning of the railway age when many memoranda sketched a
golden future of journeys and exchange of goods between both continents and
of easy ac-cess to Asian markets. But for decades such projects, often
characterised as “utopian dreams”, remained unfulfilled.
It was not until the 1880s, and also at the beginning of the 20th century,
that the Ottoman and Russian Empires invested heavily in big infrastructure
projects of this kind.
Seeking to shake off stagnation, the Ottoman Empire initially considered
railways an economic and strategic tool that would help it become a bridge
between Europe and the Middle East. However, in order to build railway lines
the Empire depended on European capital and therefore became part of the
complex and difficult interests of different imperialistic powers. Next, the
Ottoman Empireʼs dissolution and the emer-gence of new states in the
aftermath of World War One divided the railway network that had actually been
built (over 8,000 kilometres, across the Empire) into separate entities with
limited efficiency.
Several decades later, the new geo-political reality after World War Two, as
well as the Cold War, boosted Turkey’s role as a hub between Europe and Asia,
but priority was given to road construction. New opportunities for the
expansion of rail infrastructure arose at the end of the Cold War, in the
1990s, when the number of those promoting the establishment of new railway
corridors between Europe and Asia increased significantly. Recent
achievements of Turkey ‒ its investments in high-speed lines or the Marmaray
line and Avrasya rail tunnel under the Bosphorus (official slogan: “an
unbroken journey by rail from London to
Beijing”) fit in this picture.

The role Turkey played during the 19th and 20th centuries deserves a wider
research perspective and raises a set of specific questions: Which railway
projects besides the famous Baghdad Railway were accomplished and for what
purpose? How did the system of traffic and transport corridors between Europe
and Asia endure the clash of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Arab
successor states? Did railways continue to act as links between Europe and
the Middle East, and did they support economic integration between the
regions affected, or was their role purely local? Other topics may be
considered as well: How did railways enact or modify the traditional role and
image of Turkey as a staging post between Europe and Asia? Can observations
be made about contributions by railways to the modernisation of societies or
the integration of territories? What do old railway stations and the presence
of railways in villages and in museums tell us about the railways’ past? How
did railways in the Middle (and Far) East affect European imaginations about
travel to Asia, as mirrored, for example, in literature about the Orient
Express in former days or in Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar in
modern times?

The conference will also examine the past, presence, and future of
alternative inter-national corridors to the Far East. One of the most
important ones is of course the Trans-Siberian Railway, built by Russia in
the 1890s. But contrary to original inten-tions, this line did only in
limited ways serve as a link between two continents. Used mainly for internal
purposes for many decades, the line was not opened to transit business until
the 1980s. The main question remains: Why have all efforts to modernise and
open the Transsib met with only limited success up to the present, and what
will be its future? Its inefficiency was the reason why at the end of the
20th century new alternatives were planned and proposed, such as the ECO
corridor, TAR, TRACECA, or Chinaʼs initiative to restore the former Silk
Road. These more recent developments will be an important part of the
conference. Although we would like to include aspects of earlier projects, in
the context of a long-lasting memory of the Silk Road, the following
questions will be
central: Do these projected links between Europe and the Far East have a
chance to be realised? How will the projects be funded and which countries
will be involved? What about harsh political confrontations between countries
likely to be involved, and escalations potentially leading to armed conflicts
and even wars? Are there ways to surmount the technical problems of different
track gauges being used in many of the existing railway networks alongside
the projected corridors? What will be the time frame, and last but not least,
are these corridors likely to compete with existing routes across Russia or
with traditional road or maritime routes? It is in this broad context that
the conference will address role of all the countries concerned by these
visions of a future con-tinental transport system and especially the role of
present-day Turkey as one of the prominent transit countries, as well as its
potential to become a major player in a future intercontinental transport
system and an important hub between Europe and the Middle and Far East.

Please, send in proposals of max. 1 page length and a short CV.

Prof. Dr. Ralf Roth
Historisches Seminar der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität,
Norbert-Wollheimplatz 1
60629 Frankfurt am Main
E-Mail: Dr.Ralf.Roth AT

Deadline for submission of proposals: 20 May 2016 Up to 300 Euros will be
available to each contributor towards travel and lodging ex-penses.

  • [ATHENA] CFP- Rail Routes from the Baghdad Railway to the New Silk Road (19th to 21st Centuries) , Turkey 2-5 Nov 2016, listes AT, 03/31/2016

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