Shifting Sands: The Trans-Saharan Railway



For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Sahara desert was part of France’s African overseas empire. This essay re-examines how this vast area influenced French scientific and technological debates and speculations from the 1870s to the 1950s, with particular reference to the long-running campaign to construct a trans-Saharan railway connection between French territories in north and west Africa. This ultimately unrealized project illuminates the nature of French imperial ambitions in Africa and the social and political limitations of scientific and technological claims.


Suez Canal French Colonial Political Benefit Pacific Railroad Western Route 
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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography, University of NottinghamNottinghamUK

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