Expertise and policy-making: Main actors, debates and outcomes in the making of the Portuguese railway network (1850–90)
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Portugal built the main branches of its railway system. In this paper, I will use technical and military reports, parliamentary debates and sundry bibliography to analyse the influence of the different stakeholders. I investigated the expectations, priorities and agendas of engineers, army officers, policymakers and lobbyists in the design of the Portuguese railway network. I argue that historiography about Portuguese railways usually considers the rationale behind their discussion as entirely technological and focuses mainly on their outputs, taking railways for granted, or black-boxed. However, the planification of large transportation systems depends on the sociotechnical context and on hierarchies of power of their time. I will show that experts (mostly engineers) played a decisive role in the planning of the network, but a large part of its design was due to non-technical issues, including political machinations, budgetary constraints and corporative lobbying.