Global Space / Time Convergence: Days Required to Circumnavigate the Globe
Improvements in transport technology enabled a gradual space / time convergence of the global transport system. Before the industrial revolution, transport technology only permitted limited access to other regions of the world. Technological innovations in the domain of transportation were essentially used to increase the economic efficiency of European economies enabling them to have access to resources and markets. This began with mercantilism and gradually shaped the global economy with declining transport costs and the ability to move passengers and freight over longer distances. The global space / time convergence is however not spatially uniform, implying that some regions benefit more than others. For instance, space / time convergence in Western Europe and North America, and over the North Atlantic, has taken place at a faster rate than other regions of the world, such a Latin America or Africa. It can be assumed that as economic and infrastructure development takes place around the world, space / time convergence is likely to become more uniform.
Circumnavigation is a good proxy for assessing space / time convergence. Prior to the introduction of the steamship in the mid 19th century, circumnavigating the globe would take about one sailing year, a journey greatly delayed by rounding the Cape of Good Hope and the Strait of Magellan. The late 19th and early 20th century provided a series of innovations that would greatly improve circumnavigation, notably the construction of the Suez (1869) and Panama (1914) canals as well as steam propulsion. Circumnavigation was reduced to about 100 days (the "Jules Vernes effect") at the beginning of the 20th century and to 60 days by 1925 with fast liner services. The introduction of the jet plane in the second half of the 20th century reduced circumnavigation to about 34 hours if two (or three) direct and connecting long range flights can be booked (e.g. New York - Dubai, Dubai - Tokyo and Tokyo - New York).