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idempotent1729
11-17-2010, 07:29 AM
Hello,

Does anyone know how long it would take for a letter to go from Cambridge, England, to Basel, Switzerland in 1789?

Thanks so much!

Puma
11-17-2010, 05:51 PM
I'd suspect it would be the same time it would take a person to do the same. You can probably figure it out by working with a map and figuring out how far a person in a coach/ship/even on foot would be able to go in a day. And then, you might want to add a day or two to that figure. My thoughts. Puma

idempotent1729
11-17-2010, 06:41 PM
Thanks, Puma! Yeah, I think I probably have to know:

1. How long it took to cross the English Channel to the Hoek van Holland (on the order of a day or less, I'd guess)
2. How long it took to go up the Rhine to Basel (two-three weeks?? and it would depend on the wind being favorable?)

PeterL
11-17-2010, 08:09 PM
Thanks, Puma! Yeah, I think I probably have to know:

1. How long it took to cross the English Channel to the Hoek van Holland (on the order of a day or less, I'd guess)
2. How long it took to go up the Rhine to Basel (two-three weeks?? and it would depend on the wind being favorable?)

That would be the long way. It is more likely that it would be sent by land across France. It probably would take less than a day for it to get to France, and the trip across France probably would take a week or so. The only things that would take a barge up the Rhine would be bulk cargoes.

Priene
11-17-2010, 08:13 PM
Mail coaches were just being introduced in the 1780s, so I'm not sure whether Cambridge had a mail service then. I'd imagine before then letters abroad would have gone north to Ely or King Lynn, rather than down the road system. This link (http://www.gertlushonline.co.uk/bristols-mail-coach.html) gives times of 10 miles an hour or worse.

idempotent1729
11-17-2010, 08:20 PM
That would be the long way. It is more likely that it would be sent by land across France. It probably would take less than a day for it to get to France, and the trip across France probably would take a week or so. The only things that would take a barge up the Rhine would be bulk cargoes.

Wow! That's a lot faster. You're right, I just did a quick calculation and found that Calais to Basel is about 440 mi, and gauging that a horse/carriage goes around 7 mph, that means a total of 63 hrs driving, so figuring 8 hours of travel per day, that means about 8 days. Thanks!! I wonder whether ordinary travelers would go by land or by water... I am thinking of things like safety and whether there were places to stay along the route through the countryside.

idempotent1729
11-17-2010, 08:21 PM
Mail coaches were just being introduced in the 1780s, so I'm not sure whether Cambridge had a mail service then. I'd imagine before then letters abroad would have gone north to Ely or King Lynn, rather than down the road system. This link (http://www.gertlushonline.co.uk/bristols-mail-coach.html) gives times of 10 miles an hour or worse.

Thanks very much! Checking out your link now...

PeterL
11-17-2010, 08:35 PM
Wow! That's a lot faster. You're right, I just did a quick calculation and found that Calais to Basel is about 440 mi, and gauging that a horse/carriage goes around 7 mph, that means a total of 63 hrs driving, so figuring 8 hours of travel per day, that means about 8 days. Thanks!! I wonder whether ordinary travelers would go by land or by water... I am thinking of things like safety and whether there were places to stay along the route through the countryside.

No problem, I can't imagine anyone going by Rhine barge for more than a few miles without getting paid for it. I don't know how fast those barges went, but it is upstream, and I assume that they would have used sails and/or draft animals, so they probably averaged two or three miles per hour, and they probably only travelled during daylight.

idempotent1729
11-18-2010, 08:04 PM
No problem, I can't imagine anyone going by Rhine barge for more than a few miles without getting paid for it. I don't know how fast those barges went, but it is upstream, and I assume that they would have used sails and/or draft animals, so they probably averaged two or three miles per hour, and they probably only travelled during daylight.

That certainly does sound laborious! :-)

Shakesbear
11-18-2010, 09:10 PM
Wow! That's a lot faster. You're right, I just did a quick calculation and found that Calais to Basel is about 440 mi, and gauging that a horse/carriage goes around 7 mph, that means a total of 63 hrs driving, so figuring 8 hours of travel per day, that means about 8 days. Thanks!! I wonder whether ordinary travelers would go by land or by water... I am thinking of things like safety and whether there were places to stay along the route through the countryside.


Eight hours a day? That would depend on the time of year and how much daylight would be available. In the summer it could be more and with changes of horses far more ground could be covered. In winter possible far less. I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that it took George III eight hours to do a mile because of bad roads, broken axles and lame horses.

PeterL
11-18-2010, 10:15 PM
That certainly does sound laborious! :-)

It was. Barges like that were for things that could take a long travelling like coal, wheat, timber, etc. things that weren't especially perishable but were needed in large quantities. The same thingis going on now. There are barges and slow freighters carrying all sorts of commodities. It they were shipping oil by jet planes, then no one couls afford it. Oil tankers and barges use little fuel compared to the amount of freight they carry, so their greatest expenses are capital cost and personnel.

PeterL
11-18-2010, 10:20 PM
I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that it took George III eight hours to do a mile because of bad roads, broken axles and lame horses.

There are some really great stories about slow travel. Walking was the most reliable way to travel up to a hundred miles (maybe not that far) until the late 1800's.

The slowest long range trip that I have read of was Burton and Speke going from Zanzibar to the lakes country. It was something around 700 miles, and it took them more than a year. They weren't trying for speed, and they stayed in some places for a few weeks, but their typical day's travel was three miles.

idempotent1729
11-18-2010, 10:43 PM
Eight hours a day? That would depend on the time of year and how much daylight would be available. In the summer it could be more and with changes of horses far more ground could be covered. In winter possible far less. I have a vague recollection of reading somewhere that it took George III eight hours to do a mile because of bad roads, broken axles and lame horses.

It's May at the time of the journey in my story, so daylight should be somewhat OK. I am, though, worried about things like roadside bandits and gypsies and places to stay...this is obviously region-dependent, though, and can be mitigated by finding some reasonably well-traveled route rather than going through the boonies.

PeterL
11-19-2010, 12:59 AM
It's May at the time of the journey in my story, so daylight should be somewhat OK. I am, though, worried about things like roadside bandits and gypsies and places to stay...this is obviously region-dependent, though, and can be mitigated by finding some reasonably well-traveled route rather than going through the boonies.

Most of the route would have been well travelled. You never can tell about bandits; the smart ones show up where you don't expect them to be.

blacbird
11-19-2010, 03:22 AM
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The slowest long range trip that I have read of was Burton and Speke going from Zanzibar to the lakes country. It was something around 700 miles, and it took them more than a year. They weren't trying for speed, and they stayed in some places for a few weeks, but their typical day's travel was three miles.

Not very good for comparison. Burton and Speke were exploring uncharted territory, doing mapping and science and keeping extensive journals along the way. And shooting animals for food, and contending with unpredictable indigenous tribes, and crocodiles and hippos and diseases. They weren't exactly "traveling", in the sense of trying to get efficiently from point A to point B. In fact, they were trying to find point B.

Priene
11-19-2010, 03:30 PM
On reflection, I think the Norwich mail coach probably did stop in Cambridge, so mail probably would have gone via London by 1789, and then by ship to France. Unless the Revolution stopped the services running, in which case up the Rhine would have been the only solution.

PeterL
11-19-2010, 05:39 PM
Not very good for comparison. Burton and Speke were exploring uncharted territory, doing mapping and science and keeping extensive journals along the way. And shooting animals for food, and contending with unpredictable indigenous tribes, and crocodiles and hippos and diseases. They weren't exactly "traveling", in the sense of trying to get efficiently from point A to point B. In fact, they were trying to find point B.

I know, but they went so slowly, that they could have introduced themselves to everyone in Africa. On the other hand it gave Burton a chance to be so thoroughly fevered that it cured his Syphilis.

idempotent1729
11-19-2010, 06:41 PM
On reflection, I think the Norwich mail coach probably did stop in Cambridge, so mail probably would have gone via London by 1789, and then by ship to France. Unless the Revolution stopped the services running, in which case up the Rhine would have been the only solution.

Oh, hmm, the Revolution...but this is May, though, so the storming of the Bastille is still in the future. And I think the Great Fear had also not started yet, since it went hand-in-hand with the storming of the Bastille, as far as I can tell. That's a good point, though, about the potential disruption of services.

PeterL
11-19-2010, 07:23 PM
Oh, hmm, the Revolution...but this is May, though, so the storming of the Bastille is still in the future. And I think the Great Fear had also not started yet, since it went hand-in-hand with the storming of the Bastille, as far as I can tell. That's a good point, though, about the potential disruption of services.

And the post continued through nearly all of the worst of the Revolution. As long as one avoided major cities there was little sign of trouble, most of the time.