Between Worlds: Kenneth Cantlie and Locomotive Engineering in Africa, the Americas and Asia

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: History


Science and Technology museums have substantial and complex collections relating to the history of Empire and colonialism. Too often, though, these are explored within national contexts of production or the power-dynamics of dissemination and control. This project focuses on an in-between figure - the locomotive engineer Kenneth Cantlie.
This influential engineer, who worked in Africa, Argentina, China, Germany and India, created a large archive and designed the KF-7 locomotive, which was built for service in China, both now held at the National Railway Museum. In line with recent historiographical shifts, this project will use these materials to reconstruct transnational social networks and assess how they transmitted knowledge. Active in the spaces between, as well as within, nations, Cantlie was not party-political, politically neutral or passive. His promotion of engineering affected international relations, and provides an alternative way of thinking about technology and engineering.
With KF-7 and the wider story of British engineering abroad key features of the upcoming Vision 2025 redevelopment at the National Railway Museum, this is a timely intervention. It allows a skilled research, familiar with the key archive and museum context, to broaden our understanding of the challenging international stories within the NRM's collections.


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