The World Lighthouse Hub

Pharology - History

E03: Late Developments

The completion of the Suez Canal in 1869 was achieved through a joint French/Egyptian initiative and the rapid increase in the number of steam ships were two important factors in the construction of lighthouses, for both greatly assisted the growth of trade in the region and stimulated the construction of a system of beacons. On the other hand, the two World Wars had large negative effects, for major changes in national boundaries and governments took place. By the end of WWII, all of the European Empires were in rapid terminal decline and in the few years immediately following the war China was overwhelmed by the Communist revolution. The Indian subcontinent became independent and was entirely restructured into India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ceylon (later Sri Lanka). Burma and Malaya achieved independence, Indonesia was formed and many other states of Southeast Asia saw great changes to their governance. Of course, the African continent was similarly affected [9].

The lighthouse legacy that had begun in the 19th century survived these changes, however, for their universal value was by then well recognised. Many of the European-built lighthouses remained intact and their new owners put them to good use. Most are still in use today, but national maritime authorities have expanded still further their systems of navigational aids, mostly with hardware and expertise purchased from Europe. The result has been that lighthouse technology has continued to be a significant (and under-reported) European export. In an otherwise excellent book about the dynasty of Scottish lighthouse engineers, the Stevensons, Bathurst [10] barely mentions the work carried out from the late 1850s in India, Japan, China and Malaysia, which, as we shall see later, formed a significant contribution.

Before discussing in detail the specific network of beacons that were established, we shall begin with a brief summary of the history of the region so as to give a deeper perspective to the topic. We need to discuss here whether these countries were likely to have built lighthouses.