Cover image for The cable : the wire that changed the world
The cable : the wire that changed the world
Cookson, Gillian.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Stroud : Tempus, [2003]

Physical Description:
160 pages 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 20 cm
General Note:
Includes index
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TK5611 .C66 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



This is the compelling story of how the first transatlantic cable was laid--the people who dared, the people who lost, and the people who profited. It tells of the dramatic attempts to cross the Atlantic during the 1850s and 1860s, from the first failed attempts to the project that finally succeeded. An inconceivably audacious attempt to overcome the forces of nature in the name of human progress and technology, the laying of the cable was to change forever our means of communication. The speed with which information could now be transmitted was unprecedented and revolutionized the face of news and the global economy.

Author Notes

Gillian Cookson is County Editor for the Victoria County History of Durham and a research fellow at Durham University. She lives in the North York Moors near Whitby

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

An import from Britain, Cookson's account of the first transatlantic telegraph is more phlegmatic, and perhaps less dramatized, than historianohn Steele Gordon's A Thread across the Ocean (2002). Whenever the cable laying goes awry, Cookson notes the fact, whereas Gordon shades the event with the heave of the ship or the snap of the parting cable. But in its quiet manner, Cookson's effort is just as appealing a saga. Assigning credit for the ultimate success in 1866 is one of her narrative's organizing principles; another is the financing of the endeavor. A chance encounter in a New York hotel lobby set it in motion in 1854, when a Newfoundlander telegraph engineer (Frederic Gisborne) was put in touch with a rich paper manufacturer (Cyrus Field) seeking a new world to conquer. Field persuaded fellow financiers to put up the cash, but they ran out of money by 1858 and yielded the project to British interests--though Field was an ever-present proselytizer. Handsome illustrations add value to Cookson's exposition on a popular topic. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Choice Review

Cookson's interesting and valuable book for popular audiences, well written and generally well organized, is problematical for a college library collection. The "cable" is the 19th-century telegraphic cable system laid across the North Atlantic between Ireland and Canada; Cookson (Durham Univ., England) traces the project from its earliest conceptions in the 1840s through numerous technical and financial failures to its ultimate success in 1866. Quite obviously inspired by Dava Sobel's conceptually similar Longitude (CH, Mar'96), this relatively brief book succeeds in telling a complex story in an entertaining and informative way. It features an excellent 30-page glossy section of contemporary photos and etchings of the people and facilities involved. But other than those illustrations, there is little information on the technologies or techniques employed in the development or operation of the cable. Cookson emphasizes instead entrepreneurs, especially Cyrus Field and the companies with which he was involved. A significant flaw is that there are no list of sources and no footnotes. Perhaps the book's greatest educational virtue for a college library is the frustrating example it provides for a reader confronted with half-page quotes unaccompanied by attribution, sources, or context. ^BSumming Up: Optional. General readers. G. E. Herrick Maine Maritime Academy

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. 6
1 The Mystic Voice of Electricityp. 7
2 The Great Feat of the Centuryp. 40
3 The Stride of a Full-Grown Giantp. 60
4 Lightnings through Deep Watersp. 81
5 Languishing by Delayp. 106
6 A Thrill along the Iron Nervep. 131
Indexp. 157