In 1859, the S. S. Great Eastern departed from England on her maiden voyage. She was the remarkable wonder of the nineteenth cnetury: an iron city longer than Trafalgar Square, taller than Big Ben's tower, heavier than Westminster Cathedral. Her paddles were the size of Ferris wheels; her decks could hold four thousand passengers bound for America, or ten thousand troops bound for the Raj. Yet she ended her days as a floating carnival before being unceremoniously dimantled in 1889. Steamships like the Great Eastern occupied a singular places in the Victorian mind. Crossing oceans, ferrying tourists and troops alike, they became emblems of nationalism, modernity, and humankind's triumph over the cruel elements. Throughout the nineteenth century, the spectacle of a ships launch was one of the most recognizable symbols of British socail and technological progress. Yet this celebrations of the power of the empire masked overconfidence and an almost religious veneration of technology. Equating steam with civilization had catastrophic consequences for subjugated peoples around the world. Engines of Empire tells the story of the complex relationship between Victorians and their wonderous steamships, following famous travelers like Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Jules Vernee, as wo as ordinary spectators, tourists and imperial administrators, as they crossed oceans bound for the colornies. Rich with anedotes and wry humor, it is fascinating glimpse into a world where an empire felt powreful and anything seemeed possible - if there was an engine behind it. -- from dust jacket.