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Journal Articles Journal of Historical Geography Year : 2016

The Modern Atlas: compressed air and nineteenth-century cities

Carlos Lopez
  • Function : Author


This article provides an overview of pneumatic technologies in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Western cities. As urban centres continued to grow and expand in the nineteenth century, networks of compressed air were introduced to provide public utilities and private services in a variety of domains, ranging from postal services to beauty parlours. Previously used in mining and large construction works, pneumatic technologies seemed to rival electricity towards the end of the nineteenth century in the provision of urban utilities. Eventually, however, these technologies did not prove flexible enough to keep up with rapid urban population growth and the expansion of cities themselves, nor were they able to become glorious symbols of urban modernity. Through an overview of compressed air applications as used in urban centres, particularly Paris and London, the article provides an insight into the relationship between technological networks and urban modernities from the perspective of this relatively neglected urban network and technology.



Dates and versions

hal-01567637 , version 1 (24-07-2017)



Mustafa Dikeç, Carlos Lopez. The Modern Atlas: compressed air and nineteenth-century cities. Journal of Historical Geography, 2016, 53, pp.11-27. ⟨10.1016/j.jhg.2016.03.003⟩. ⟨hal-01567637⟩
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