Article ID: CBB779229466

Building a Better Passage to the Sea: Engineering and River Management at the Mouth of the Danube, 1829–61 (October 2018)


This article deals with the first regulation project in the Danube Delta conducted by the European Commission of the Danube (ECD), one of the first international organizations in Europe. It looks at the ECD as a collective actor that planned and oversaw an infrastructural project under the auspices of the European Great Powers. In the name of free trade, the commissioners were able to overcome imperial rivalries and foster cooperation between diplomats and technical experts, thus shaping the collective identity of the commission. Hydraulic engineers acted as mediators in this system by adapting their formal knowledge to the political situation of the commission and to the complex environmental conditions at the mouth of the Danube. In this context, I argue that the regulation of the Danube Delta captures the evolution of the engineering knowledge at a point of transition between pre-modern river engineering and (high) modernist engineering projects. First, engineers rejected previous local practices of river management and relied exclusively on their own observations. And second, they did not try to contain nature's power but rather adapt their constructions to the agency of the river.

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Authors & Contributors
Fleming, James Rodger
Launius, Roger D.
DeVorkin, David H.
Carlaw, Kenneth
Bekar, Clifford
Lipsey, Richard G
Technology and Culture
The Journal of Transport History
Palgrave Macmillan
Oxford University Press
P. Lang
University of Chicago Press
University of Toronto Press
International cooperation
Technology and State
Leonardo da Vinci
Time Periods
20th century
19th century
21st century
14th century
18th century
United States
Amazon River Region (South America)
Danube river
Mississippi River (North America)
International Polar Year (1882-1883)
International Geophysical Year (IGY)
League of Nations
United Nations
United States. Army. Corps of Engineers

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