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Imperial designs: technology and empire in the 19th century

Maritime trade and the need for infrastructure

Plan of Montreal harbour.Improvement of Montreal harbour, plan showing alternative scheme for high level works and for breast works.To facilitate increased maritime trade between Britain and its colonies and dominions, improvements to infrastructure such as harbours were essential.

The item displayed here details proposed improvements to Montreal harbour, both for incoming ships and for onward-bound trade. It was compiled by a Glaswegian, an Ottawan and a New Yorker, whose national backgrounds give an indication of the countries which had significant gains to make through the implementation of such a project.

Outlined at the beginning of the work are the major reasons for these improvements and these include provision for steam traffic and ‘vessels importing coal, rails, etc for transport westwards’; ‘provision for the lumber trade’ and ‘provision for bringing all the railway lines entering Montreal within convenient access to the shipping’.

The report recognises Montreal as a significant hub for North American trade and also records how the construction of canals and railways leading from the port has stimulated trade in the surrounding region. In the years following the report, significant improvement work was undertaken on the harbour and it remains a major North American trade port.

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