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History (since 1805)
With the end of the First Great European War in the early 1800s, nations such as France and the United Kingdom rapidly developed their merchant marines to trade with the rest of the world. By the 1830s, before the Rhineland Conflict, the first steam engines were placed on ships, powering massive paddle wheels but due to their unreliability at the time, sails were still vital. This gave companies more reliability when it came to shipping schedules, as before this point, ships with sails were unpredictable due to weather and winds.
As the many of the smaller nations in Europe and North America began to industrialize in the mid 19th century, the need for raw materials and shipping finished goods lead to massive changes in the development of Maritime Trade. Wood was replaced with iron, which in turn was superseded by steel, while steam engines went from a novelty, to a reliance, to the only way to cross. Ships became larger and larger, able to carry hundreds, if not thousands, or passengers at a time, while steam engines became more and more powerful, which resulted in increasingly faster crossing: from over three weeks at the advent of paddle wheels to a week by 1890, and then five days in 1901.