This article considers the role of technical representations in the building of one of the most significant civil engineering projects of the mid-nineteenth century, London’s main drainage system, designed and overseen by the engineer Joseph Bazalgette. It explores the ways in which the contract—composed of engineering drawings and an accompanying specification—mediated the relationship between Bazalgette and his most important ally, the contractor. The article also pays close attention to the variety of audiences beyond the contractor to which these documents were directed: including those who authorized and funded the project, those parties directly affected by construction, and the wider public. The result is a fuller picture of the social context in which the main drainage project was constructed and of the crucial role played by the contract in mediating social relations of many kinds, a perspective that is absent in the existing literature on the subject.


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pp. 568-598
Launched on MUSE
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