Center for the History of Global Development

Iron Silk Roads

Railways and Europe – Asian Relations, 1950s to Present 

1. Railways and Europe – Asian Relations

Political and economic developments in various regions of Asia have resulted in a changing transport landscape with the expansion and modernization of inland transport and specifically railways across the Asian continent. These projects are by definition of a global scope and importance. The research project I am working on in the past two years focuses on an analysis of Modern Asian History through the lenses of the history of transport, traffic and mobility, and the transnational history of technology. My research focuses on three rail transport projects, namely: 

  • the Southern Trans Asian Railway (whose history goes back to the 1960s), a project to establish a freight rail corridor from Istanbul to Singapore bypassing Chinese territory, in the early 1960s and 1970s. 
  • the transport corridor TRACECA (Europe- Central Asia,–Caucasus, 1990s to Present, sponsored by the European Union), and finally 
  • the new rail freight route from Western China through Kazakhstan to Russia, and henceforth to central Europe. 

My work on the first case so far has proven the important role that important actors from outside the region, specifically Japan, France and Germany, attributed to the establishment of this transnational corridor as a means to promote the ´development´ of the non-industrialized (or ´under developed´) region of South East Asia as a whole. Therefore my first case study appears as an important case in informing the ´History of Global Development´, broadly defined. Furthermore it is important to note here that since the early years of this large scale project (1960s & 1970s) various actors from ´outside the region´ of South East Asia, argued on the importance of promoting this corridor as an important parameter for the development of this region of Asia, by means of a process of ´technology transfer´, often referred to as ´technical assistance´. My second case study concerns the transport corridor TRACECA, namely a project for the reconfiguration of transport in the region of Central Asia (since the 1990s), where the EU (an actor from ´outside the region´), once more looked at the region of central Asia through the lenses of offering ´technical assistance´ for developmental purposes. Finally, during my proposed stay in Shanghai, I aim at looking closer at the third case study focusing on the policy of the Chinese government for the development of the transport infrastructure in its neighboring regions of central and south East Asia.

Researcher: Irene Anastasiadou