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Why wasn't a canal build between the Rhine and the Danube?

 
 
Cactor
 
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 03:36 pm
It seems to me like it would be a good idea, before the days of railroad that is.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 2 • Views: 2,991 • Replies: 11
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roger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 03:54 pm
Without looking at a topographical map, I don't know. That may hold the answer, however. Of course, they were in separate countries, before reunification. Other than geographical concerns, however, it sounds like a fine idea, even today.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 04:16 pm
Both the Rhine and the Danube rise in the highlands above the Black Forest, above 1200 feet--by the time they reach lower elevations, and broaden sufficiently to have made canals plausible, they are separated by hundreds of miles, and extremely difficult terrain. In it's upper reaches, the Danube is a very swift river; the Rhine is a swift river throughout almost the entire course. From a political point of view, the Archdukes of Austria have far more control and leverage in the region by controlling the mid-Danube, and the commerce thourgh Ulm to the Black Forest region. Politically, there would have been so many deals to have made with small time aristocrats in the HRE, that it wouldn't likely have ever been accomplished.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 05:15 pm
Quote:
Main-Danube Canal
Encyclopædia Britannica Article

also called Europa Canal , German Main-Donau-Kanal , or Europa-Kanal commercial waterway in Bavaria Land (state), southern Germany, completed in 1992. The canal, 106 miles (171 km) long, runs from Bamberg on the Main River (a tributary of the Rhine) to Kelheim on the Danube River, permitting traffic to flow between the North Sea and the Black Sea.

http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=51388&tocid=0&query=europa

Looks like Setanta's got some good thoughts on why it wasn't completed earlier.




and this is for Setanta : http://www.livinglakes.org/bodensee/
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 08:18 pm
I saw that "bodensee" site, Sweetiepie, but it didn't tell me the elevation of Lake Konstanz. I can imagine trying to get Bavaria, Wurtemburg, Franconia, or any of those others to cooperate in such a venture. I also doubt that anyone could have dealt with the hydraulic engineering until within the last century (except perhaps the Dutch, who have been very good with hydraulics for an awfully long time . . . )
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 09:51 pm
Although the Danube and Rhine basins actually are separated by only a few miles (near Lake Constance), it would be daft to connect the two rivers by a canal at that point. Not only would the canal have to be cut through mountainous terrain, but the Danube simply is not navigable at that point. A better solution would have been the one eventually taken in the 1990s: a canal connecting the Danube with the Main river in the vicinity of Nürnberg.

There are, however, a number of good reasons why such a canal was only built in the 1990s rather than the 1890s or the 1770s, some of which have already been alluded to here.

The "golden age" of canal building was in the century after 1750: by 1850, the railroad proved to be both cheaper and more adaptable (it was, e.g., easier to build a railroad over a desert or a mountain range than it was to traverse that terrain with a canal). The British were at the forefront of canal building during this era, and a comparison between the British and German situations is useful in determining why there was no Rhine-Danube canal built in the eighteenth century.

1. Britain was politically united; Germany was politically divided.
There were no political frontiers to get in the way of a canal in Britain, whereas pre-unification Germany was nothing but frontiers. Even though the area of the current Europa canal would have been largely within the electorate/kingdom of Bavaria, it still would have run into political problems unknown in the British context (e.g. a barge going from Vienna to Cologne would have passed dozens of customs barriers, paying duties at every one).

2. Britain surpassed Germany in access to credit
Canals are ridiculously expensive, and there was very little in the way of government subsidies going to private companies. In order to build a canal, therefore, an entrepreneur needed money and lots of it. Britain had, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a fairly modern system of banking and finance, along with investors eager to support these types of speculative ventures. Germany, in contrast, was woefully lacking in all of these prerequisites.

3. Britain had a favorable legal structure; Germany did not
Closely connected to the financial system was the legal system: in order to finance a large project like a canal, it is necessary to pool the funds of a large number of investors. The only way to manage that kind of project is to form a partnership or, better yet, a limited liability company. Britain had some bad experiences with corporations in the early eighteenth century, but by the end of the century it had gradually shifted to a pro-corporation stance, which permitted these kinds of ventures to take advantage of a favorable legal climate. Germany, in contrast, was still largely hostile to limited liability corporate structures until the nineteenth century.

Those are just a few reasons. I haven't even taken into consideration the technological factors involved in canal-building at the time. For a good account of canal-building in the "first" industrial revolution, I recommend Phyllis Deane's economic history of Britain during that period -- it's old but it's still quite good.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 09:57 pm
The British were damned good at that, first-rate in fact, given that the country is less well adpated to the exercise because of many small rivers. Where the river's are close, as Joe points out, the logistics are ridiculous. I consider the political implications to be the most telling--i wouldn't even want to outline the "sovereignties" which would have been involved in such a project in the 18th or 19th centuries. Even after the rise of the German Empire, Bavaria was, ostensibly, a sovereign nation--and Willi II wasn't likely to do them any favors.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Mon 12 Jul, 2004 10:00 pm
On your point 3, Joe, i believe i'm correct in asserting that Parliament had created a limited liability act in the 1830's--even today, the revolutionary character of that legislation is not well understood. The Dutch created modern credit exchange, and the basic forms of credit instruments; the English carried this to yet another level, by creating the legal apparatus for the operation of capital, without the government control exercised by the old Dutch Estates.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jul, 2004 08:25 am
Setanta: The British parliament passed quite a few limited liability company acts during the nineteenth century -- each time tweaking and fine-tuning the requirements of the corporate structure. This short article on the 1867 act gives a sense of how parliament took a decidedly reactive approach to business legislation.

A certain segment of the British public never quite got used to the notion of limited liability. William Schwenk Gilbert, one half of the team of Gilbert and Sullivan, took a rather dim view of the whole thing, suggesting that it was a shield behind which unscrupulous speculators could profit from the gullible masses while hiding from their creditors. In Utopia, Limited, Mr. Goldsbury, a company promoter from Britain, transforms the mythical kindgom of Utopia into a limited liability company "under the Joint Stock Companies Act of sixty-two." He explains his scheme thusly:

    [i][b]Mr. Goldbury (a company promoter)[/b]: Some seven men form an Association (If possible, all Peers and Baronets), They start off with a public declaration To what extent they mean to pay their debts. That's called their Capital; if they are wary They will not quote it at a sum immense. The figure's immaterial--it may vary From eighteen million down to eighteenpence. I should put it rather low; The good sense of doing so Will be evident at once to any debtor. When it's left to you to say What amount you mean to pay, Why, the lower you can put it at, the better. [b]Chorus:[/b] When it's left to you to say, etc. [b]Mr. Goldbury:[/b] They then proceed to trade with all who'll trust 'em Quite irrespective of their capital (It's shady, but it's sanctified by custom); Bank, Railway, Loan, or Panama Canal. You can't embark on trading too tremendous-- It's strictly fair, and based on common sense-- If you succeed, your profits are stupendous-- And if you fail, pop goes your eighteenpence. Make the money-spinner spin! For you only stand to win, And you'll never with dishonesty be twitted. For nobody can know, To a million or so, To what extent your capital's committed! [b]Chorus:[/b] No, nobody can know, etc. [b]Mr. Goldbury:[/b] If you come to grief, and creditors are craving (For nothing that is planned by mortal head Is certain in this Vale of Sorrow--saving That one's Liability is Limited),-- Do you suppose that signifies perdition? If so, you're but a monetary dunce-- You merely file a Winding-Up Petition, And start another Company at once! Though a Rothschild you may be In your own capacity, As a Company you've come to utter sorrow-- But the Liquidators say, "Never mind--you needn't pay," So you start another company to-morrow! [b]Chorus:[/b] But the liquidators say, etc.[/i]
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jul, 2004 02:02 pm
That's a classic, Joe, thanks . . .
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Cactor
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jul, 2004 05:24 pm
What about a canal between the Ganges and the Indus?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 13 Jul, 2004 06:13 pm
Well, despite the well-known love between the Pakistani and the Indian, i somehow doubt we'll see that one any time soon.
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