A small group of men dominate the crucial industrial years of the nineteenth century..... Among the most important of these 'men of enterprise' were the contractors, who, by the railways, roads, and harbours which they built and often financed, spread over the world a transport revolution and affected profoundly the development of modern industrial society.
Yet the contractors are the hidden men of history, hard enough to discover, and almost impossible to describe, but whose world-wide activities are explicable only in terms of their lives and personalities.........
They created the world railway system; when steel ships superseded wooden, they enlarged and rebuilt every harbour in the world; laid the gas mains, brought fresh water to cities, damned rivers for reservoirs and electricity, cut canals, laid down roads, drained old towns and rebuilt new. No facet of the modern world is untouched by their activity.
Only a handful of remarkable contractors in the economic century 1830-1930 had the ability which raised them to such significance, they left few record, and absorbed in their undertakings, they rarely looked for publicity.
The Master Builders. Robert Keith Middlemas. Hutchinson of London 1963.