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Angelica Agredo-Montealegre


Twitter Handle: @angagredo

A global history of the road. Road construction, maintenance and use in Colombia,

Argentina, French West Africa and the Algerian Sahara, 1930-1970

From 1930 to 1970, the roads of Latin America, Africa and Asia experienced considerable

length increase and, especially in the post-1945 period, the modification of their material

characteristics. This transformation enabled the road structures and surfaces to withstand

the rapidly increasing heavy traffic of a globalising and nationalising world. This thesis

shows the importance of unpaved roads and freight transport, particularly in the developing

world. It argues that many roads, especially in the developing world, were built as what were called low-cost roads. Built down to a price, rather than up to a standard, low-cost roads were designed to last half as long as high-quality roads. However, these roads were meant to be upgraded over time, therefore making maintenance and improvements essential to ensure future circulation. In fact, this thesis shows that maintenance and upgradeability were the crucial factors that allowed low-cost roads to bear the rapidly growing heavy traffic of the post-1945 period. This thesis therefore represents a shift away from the main themes of the existing historiography, which focus on private automobiles, motorways, tourism and leisure, and policy for road building. This thesis makes the case for studying the materiality of twentieth-century roads and focuses on the cases of the Algerian Sahara, French West Africa, Argentina and Colombia – allowing for a comparison of varied extreme natural environments and complex relationships between rail and road transport.

1st Supervisor: David Edgerton

2nd Supervisor: Christine Mathias


I am an historian of twentieth-century science, technology and the environment. After finishing my History undergraduate degree at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, I completed an MA on Science, technology and medicine in history at King’s College London, where I am currently finishing my PhD thesis.

My research interests sit at the intersection of technology, transport and development policies, the natural environment and social inequalities at a global scale. I have experience conducting research addressed to academic audiences, policy-makers and the wider public.


Angelica Agredo Montealegre, ‘Historic Government Policy on Artificial Intelligence in the United Kingdom’, in Annexe 4, Artificial Intelligence Committee AI in the UK: ready, willing and able? Report of session 2017-19, House of Lords (HL) Paper 100


Stefania Gallini, Laura Felacio, Angélica Agredo and Stephanie Garcés. ‘The City's Currents: A History of Water in 20th-Century Bogotá’, in Environment & Society Portal, Virtual Exhibitions 2014, no. 3. Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society. (20/03/2018)


Papers Given:

Dec 2018 - Histories of Technology’s Persistence: Repair, Reuse and Disposal, Workshop, C2DH, University of Luxembourg, ‘The Unintended Role of Maintenance: Keeping Colombian Roads Passable, 1950s-1960s’

Dec 2017 - Infrastructure, Society and Culture: Lessons from the History of Large Technological Systems, Workshop, Bogota DC, ‘Two Colonies, Two Contexts, One Goal: Road Maintenance in India in the 1930s and French West Africa in the 1950s’

Nov 2017 - Transport, Traffic and Mobility in History Annual Meeting, ‘Concrete Roads and the Bullock Cart: Roads and Road Transport in India during the Interwar Years’

Oct 2017 - Society for the History of Technology Annual Meeting, ‘Keeping Roads Passable: Mechanised and ‘progressive’ maintenance in French West Africa in the 1950s’

Grants, Awards, and Prizes:


2018. Melvin Kranzberg Dissertation Fellowship, awarded annually by the Society for the History of Technology to a doctoral student from any university around the world engaged in the preparation of a dissertation on the history of technology.

2015 – 2019. International Studentship from the Centre for Doctoral Studies at King’s College London to fund the PhD degree at King’s College London

2014 – 2015. Hans Rausing Scholarship providing tuition fees and living stipend to fund the Master’s degree at King’s College London

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