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Freeman, Michael 1950–

Freeman, Michael 1950–

(Michael J. Freeman)

PERSONAL:

Born November 29, 1950.

ADDRESSES:

Office—School of Geography, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, South Parks Rd., Oxford OX1 3QY, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

University of Oxford, Mansfield College, Oxford, England, supernumerary fellow and lecturer in human geography, and Regent's Park College, lecturer.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Grants from the British Academy and Marc Fitch Fund and visiting fellowship, Yale Center for British Art, for Railways and the Victorian Imagination; Book of the Year award, Yorkshire Post, 1999, for Railways and the Victorian Imagination; fellowship, Yale Center for British Art, 2001, for Victorians and the Prehistoric: Tracks to a Lost World.

WRITINGS:

A Perspective on the Geography of English Internal Trade during the Industrial Revolution: The Trading Economy of the Textile District of the Yorkshire West Riding circa 1800, School of Geography (Oxford, England), 1982.

(Editor, with Derek H. Aldcroft) Transport in the Industrial Revolution, Manchester University Press (Dover, NH), 1983.

(With Derek H. Aldcroft) The Atlas of British Railway History, Croom Helm (Dover, NH), 1985.

(With consulting editor, Tim Mason) Atlas of Nazi Germany, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1987, revised edition published as Atlas of Nazi Germany: A Political, Economic, and Social Anatomy of the Third Reich, Longman (New York, NY), 1995.

(Editor, with Derek H. Aldcroft) Transport in Victorian Britain, Manchester University Press (New York, NY), 1988.

(With consulting editor, Derek Aldcroft) Atlas of the World Economy, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

Railways and the Victorian Imagination, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1999.

Victorians and the Prehistoric: Tracks to a Lost World, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2004.

(Editor, with Matthew Beaumont) The Railway and Modernity: Time, Space and the Machine Ensemble, Peter Lang (Oxford, England), 2007.

Contributor to works by others, including The Penguin Atlas of British and Irish History, 2001; contributor to journals, including the British Journal for the History of Science, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Journal of Transport History, Agricultural History Review, and Social History.

SIDELIGHTS:

Michael Freeman is a supernumerary fellow and lecturer in human geography at Mansfield College and a lecturer at Regent's Park, both at Oxford University in England. His research interests are historical geography and cultural history. According to his profile he has been involved in the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century ecological history of Wychwood Forest, Oxfordshire, a project of the School of Geography. Freeman also researches the industrial revolution as it pertains to transport and trade. He is the author of A Perspective on the Geography of English Internal Trade during the Industrial Revolution: The Trading Economy of the Textile District of the Yorkshire West Riding circa 1800, and the editor, with Derek H. Aldcroft, of Transport in the Industrial Revolution and Transport in Victorian Britain. Freeman contributed sections on turnpikes, canals, and railways to The Penguin Atlas of British and Irish History. He has also written a history of the Third Reich titled Atlas of Nazi Germany: A Political, Economic, and Social Anatomy of the Third Reich.

Freeman's Atlas of the World Economy is a multipart study of the postwar world economy that includes individual chapters on industry, income, population, transport and trade, labor, agriculture, energy, and multinationals. Freeman drew on data from the World Bank, United Nations, and International Labour Organization in order to present the tables, graphs, and maps that display the statistics.

Simon Ville, who reviewed the volume in Business History, commented that "the text is too brief and oversimplistic," saying that in some instances "more specific issues are addressed but sometimes incompletely." Ville felt that because Freeman takes a macroeconomic approach, "there is little about the changing structure and organisation of firms."

Railways and the Victorian Imagination is "an interdisciplinary study of the railroad as a cultural metaphor in nineteenth-century Britain," according to Freeman's profile on the Web site of the University of Oxford School of Geography. This study was well-supported by grants from the British Academy and the Marc Fitch Fund, and a visiting fellowship from Yale University enabled Freeman to research the holdings of the Yale Center for British Art.

J.A. Chartres wrote in the English Historical Review that "Freeman's background in historical geography helps him to integrate positivist social science literature with art and cultural history approaches, to present the railway as paradigm case of a modernism that could challenge the natural and creationist world." The book contains a wealth of drawings, prints, photographs, paintings, and maps that demonstrate the railroad's impact in the Victorian Age. Included are images of trains, tunnels, bridges, tracks and stations.

Although many books have been published that cover the economics and technology of the railroads, few have addressed how they changed the culture of the period. Tracks transformed the landscape even as they brought rail travel to a greater number of people who rode either first, second, or third class. Notables who rode the trains even as they denounced them included Carlyle, Ruskin, and Dickens, who romanticized the days of the open road and stagecoach. Excavation revealed the geological layers of the earth that supported Lyell's theories, thereby challenging the biblical version of creation. Marx's theories of capitalism were supported by investment and the exploitation of labor. Competition among companies, including mergers and takeovers, proved the doctrine of social Darwinism.

Freeman contends that the railways were central to the new democracy and movement of people and goods. He notes that railways were painted as a natural addition to the landscape in prints of Tait, Bourne, and Bury; that the paintings of Turner and Martin depicted the power of steam, and that those of Earl and Frith reflected life at the railway stations. James Winter commented on the richness that "is particularly evident in Freeman's treatment of the 1830s and 1840s when sudden advances in transport technology coincided with Chartism, famine, the furor over Parliamentary reform, and a mounting sense of social and intellectual crisis, this concurrence quickening awareness of radical change, deepening the consequent anxieties and, at the same time, giving apparent substance to faith in progress through ‘improvements.’"

Beginning in 1840, images of railways were used in books for children, including alphabet books, and railroad-themed jigsaw puzzles and games were created. Toy trains became the ultimate toy, and one that endures.

Jeffrey Richards reviewed Railways and the Victorian Imagination in Business History, concluding: "All in all, this vividly written and handsomely produced book is a very welcome addition to the literature of the railways."

The Yale Center for British Art also provided Freeman with a fellowship to research Victorians and the Prehistoric: Tracks to a Lost World, which continues a subject touched upon in Railways and the Victorian Imagination. The Victorian period was a time of interest in geology, particularly as railways and mining companies cut into the earth's layers, exposing a great many fossils. "Freeman tells this story well by tracing the work of William Smith, Sir Charles Lyell, William Buckland, and others who sought to make sense of the earth's past," noted Stephen L. Keck in the Historian. "The popularity of writers such as Robert Chambers and Gideon Mantell enabled Victorians to be familiar with competing ideas about earth history." These competing ideas included opposing thought by some, such as Philip Henry Gosse, who tried to find a common ground between scripture and geology as he studied fossils in South Devon.

Freeman writes of the way in which dinosaurs were depicted and the arrangement of fossils in natural history museums, as well as how discoveries affected the work of artists, including John Martin, who painted what he felt represented the volcanoes, floods, and carnivorous dinosaurs of the past. Art was replaced by diagrams, and amateur geologists with scientists, "but for nearly half a century the conjunction of scientific research and artistic imagination had been thrilling," concluded Apollo contributor Michael Hall, who described Victorians and the Prehistoric as being a "tour-de-force account of the impact of geology on Victorian culture."

Freeman is the editor, with Matthew Beaumont, of The Railway and Modernity: Time, Space and the Machine Ensemble, a collection of essays that addresses the historical significance of the railway less as a means of transportation or sign of progress than as a key to the development of capitalist modernity.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Apollo, September, 2005, Michael Hall, review of Victorians and the Prehistoric: Tracks to a Lost World, p. 80.

Business History, July, 1992, Simon Ville, review of Atlas of the World Economy, p. 214; July, 2000, Jeffrey Richards, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 165.

Canadian Journal of History, December, 2001, James Winter, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 580.

Contemporary Review, July, 2000, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 62.

English Historical Review, February, 2001, J.A. Chartres, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 250.

Historian, spring, 2006, Stephen L. Keck, review of Victorians and the Prehistoric, p. 185.

Journal of Social History, summer, 2001, Peter Bailey, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 992.

Library Journal, December, 1999, Lawrence Maxted, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 158.

Victorian Studies, winter, 2001, Joseph Bizuip, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 333.

Wilson Quarterly, spring, 2000, Edward Tenner, review of Railways and the Victorian Imagination, p. 139.

ONLINE

University of Oxford School of Geography Web site,http://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/ (March 24, 2008), author profile.

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