The Chinese, as early as the fifth century B.C., had begun work on the Grand Canal of China, between Hangchow and Peking, a total length of 1,000 miles, and it is said to be the oldest existing canal. The principal part was built in the thirteenth century A.D.
About 2000 B.C., the Egyptians built a canal joining the Nile and the Red Sea, thus anticipating the Suez Canal as we know it today. Later, Nebuchadnezzar built the royal canal of Babylon, which linked the Tigris and Euphrates. The Romans, too, constructed canals in many parts of their empire. Charlemagne, about the eighth century, began a system of canals to connect the Rhine, the Maas, and the Danube. Later ages saw extensive development of canal systems in Italy, France, Belgium, and elsewhere in Europe.
The second half of the eighteenth century saw a time of great activity in canal-building in Great Britain for the transport of coal and other goods. This enthusiasm continued unabated until the advent of railways in the 1820s. The Manchester Ship Canal is a good example of how a waterway may be constructed to join an inland city with the coast. Between 1759 and 1830, no fewer than 4,790 miles of canals were cut in England. Many people invested money in them and some of the canal companies paid high dividends.
In the earliest times, boats were pushed or pulled by men through canals; then horses and mules were used on a towpath along the bank. Today, boats move either under their own power or are hauled by horses. Until the invention of the canal lock, canals could only be built where the country was level.
Who Invented Canals And Waterways?
The Chinese (the greatest early builders of canals) undertake several major projects from the 3rd century BC onwards.