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Michel Chevalier : Visionary of Modern Europe ? - Books & ideas

Michel Chevalier : Visionary of Modern #Europe ? - Books & ideas

Leading 19th century statesman, political economist, architect of the 1860 commercial treaty between France and the United Kingdom, and campaigner for peace between European nations, Michel Chevalier had also been a dominant voice in the Romantic socialism of Saint-Simonianism: the eclectic nature of his thought would lend itself to a particular vision of Europe, forerunner of today’s European Union.

In December 1880 a group of French workers completed the first stage of a colossal engineering project near Sangatte. The building of an underground railway tunnel linking France and Britain, the first Channel Tunnel, had begun. First conceived by a French mining engineer Albert Mathieu-Favier in 1802, this great venture found its leading crusaders after the 1830 Revolution. One of them, a young, ambitious and visionary French mining engineer Michel Chevalier (1806-1879) seized on the idea of a channel tunnel to articulate a new economic and political vision for France, Britain, and Europe. Throughout his life Chevalier laboured to make this vision a reality, and in 1875 he founded La compagnie de chemin de fer sous-marin entre la France et l’Angleterre. Investors on both sides of the channel were transported by Chevalier’s vision and poured money into the company. But his and their faith in the project was dashed when the British military successfully lobbied its government to withdraw its support, fearing the tunnel would be used as an invasion route. In 1883 work on the project was stopped. It would take over a century to reverse that decision.

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