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National University of Ireland, Maynooth
Implementing optical telegraphy:
a case study of R.L. Edgeworth’s
Telegraphic Establishment, 1797-1805
25th February 2014
1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Simon Building Room 2.57
Implementing optical telegraphy: a case study of R.L. Edgeworth’s Telegraphic Establishment, 1797-1805
Optical telegraphy emerged in many countries throughout Europe in the period following the French revolution. The technology offered rapid communication to belligerent states in a period of massive change. However, while some states adopted the technology wholeheartedly, developing large optical telegraph networks, others used the technology sparsely. This paper shall briefly examine the use of the technology in France and Britain before surveying its use in Ireland. Here the optical telegraph system of Richard Lovell Edgeworth was adopted in late 1803 as a response to the threat of French invasion. The island, only two years after political union with Britain and five years after the 1798 rebellion, was ill-prepared for any potential invasion. It would be reliant upon its land-based forces to repel any potential French landing, native rebellion or combination of the two. Edgeworth’s tellograph [sic] if successful would be a great benefit in allowing the rapid movement of troops. The subsequent strengthening of Ireland’s coastal defences and, thus, renewed focus on naval defence destroyed the rationale for an Irish optical telegraph system. This paper shall, through this case study of Ireland, argue that optical telegraphy was only of significant benefit to nations whose main military force was land-based.