User Rating: 4 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Inactive

In the 18th century, transportation was primitive by today's standards. The majority of the time if you wanted to go anywhere you either walked or rode a horse on trails or rough roads. Most folks could not afford carriages or wagons. People traveled from one country to the next by small wooden ships or stagecoach services. 

Water transportation

The main ship of the day was the sailing vessel. There were two types of ships, the overseas vessel and the smaller "coasting" vessel. Overseas vessels transported cargo and passengers to destinations like America, Nova Scotia, and China. Coastal vessels transported goods and people along the coasts, such as the American east coast. They were not meant for crossing the ocean.

These ships were small, cramped and usually had a crew of no more than 25 or 30 men. These vessels carried out sea trade, cargo hauling, or general transport within the world empires of the day. The English empire was based on her navy and her ability to protect its merchant fleets.

Bateau, canoes and rafts were mainly used in the wilderness or undeveloped areas of the world. For example in America, the Natives used the birch bark canoe for transportation on the major rivers. The fur traders used canoes, bateau and rafts to transport their yearly take of furs to Rendezvous and outposts for transport to market.


Here are some websites that you can visit to learn more about water transportation in the 18th century.

White Oak Society
To learn about the use of canoes in America during the 18th century, Here you will learn that "the canoe was the workhorse of the fur trade. It is not known for sure when the birch bark canoe was first developed. Dugout canoes were common, but would have been too heavy and could carry only a limited amount of goods." (1996 White Oaks Society Inc.)

James River Batteau Festival
On this site, you can read how this craft is constructed and learn about the annual festival held on the river.

Secrets of the James River
The James River Association website has a short history of batteau article about the history of this famous River.

Journeys in Time
The Journeys in Time Project discusses 18th century travel by sea. Here you can see what type of ships were used during the era, see a glossary of nautical terms and a list of ships names. For more information about the project, you can read the project overview section of the site.

Maritime History 
The Wikipedia website has a good history of sea travel from early to modern sea travel.

Land Transportation

People and goods got around on land by horse drawn wagons, coaches, and carriages. For personal transportation, people used the horse. Oxen and mules pulled wagons and carts, loaded with goods and personal property from one destination to the other. In Europe, especially in England, the majority of roads were well kept pathways between cities and villages. This was not so in America. 

America in the 18th century had no roads like the ones we have today. The majority of American roads were Indian trails cut in the wilderness. The roads that did exist had tree stumps in the middle, with wagon ruts on either side. This made travel difficult if not impossible to say the least. It would be some time before America would build good roads. It was the call for a national road in the 1740's that would be the catalyst for building these good roads. Transportation on land would not be possible if it had not been for the horse. The horse was used for transportation and farming. Indeed if it were not for the horse, Nations and empires would not have been built. For the horse was a mover of society in the 18th century.


To Learn more about land transportation of the 18th century, take a look at these sites on the subject.

Through the Wilderness: The Making of the National Road
This article explains the history of land transportation in America. The author Timothy Crumrin did a great job explaining the beginnings of this National road.

The International Museum of the Horse
 On This site you can read how important the horse was to man and the building of nations.

The Horse in America
This link takes you to the beginning of chapter three of The Legacy of the Horse, which is broken down in subsections for easier reading.

The Four important sections are: 

History of Transportation and Travel
The History World website explains in some detail, the history of travel. It even include information about the Hot air balloon.