The 19th-century's steam railway epitomized modernity's relentlessly onrushing economic advances. The outcome is referred to as the creation of a ‘railway culture’, in which a set of practices, and the meanings given to those practices, that developed were given institutional form within the nation's political system. Those practices and ideas, well developed by the early 19th century, in turn shaped the ways in which policy makers defined and responded to the new problems generated by industrialization. British political culture and parliamentary institutions emphasized the importance of granting sovereignty to individuals. During the early 19th century, British railway policy emphasized the importance of allowing private firms considerable freedom to organize and operate the railway system. As time progressed, the policy shifted slightly to emphasize the importance of Parliament acting to protect the sovereignty of individual railway firms, and to prevent the industry from becoming too concentrated. This process is exemplified by the influence of one man, Samuel Peto, on the development of a railway culture in 19th century Lowestoft.
Lowestoft’s pre-Peto sense of becoming seen as a culture different from that of a string of similar sized East Coast fishing communities, was evident nationally in its porcelain factory, which was in production from c.1757-1801. The first English porcelain manufactories were established in the 1740s and 50s and the Lowestoft factory is of particular importance as it was the only one to be set up in East Anglia. Lowestoft still holds an important position in the story of British ceramics as no other factory produced so many dated and inscribed pieces. This means that we have an exceptionally clear picture of who was commissioning which individual items at what date, providing an unparalleled profile of the customer base of a factory of this kind. In addition Lowestoft is also the only factory known to have made birth tablets, painted discs made to commemorate the birth of a child. The porcelain has further significance as a valuable record of Lowestoft in the late eighteenth century when it was becoming established as a popular holiday resort: many of the factory produced objects, decorated with transfer printing, were intended as souvenirs. Pieces feature local scenes such as the church, beach, lighthouses and there is one of the earliest depictions of a bathing machine. Bernard Watney has observed: 'no other English china evokes quite the same sense of belonging to a particular place'. Equally we also know that much of the factory’s output was exported to Europe, a significant example of Lowestoft’s close links with the Continent, which were to be intensified by Peto for maritime trade in other local products.
By the time Peto arrived in Lowestoft, porcelain had not been produced for almost a generation. He was attracted to the town by the obvious financial gains to be made by connecting it to an expanding national railway network, and thereby increase both the supply of marketed commodities and labour, and the demand for marketed-products. In this context he was a national investor whose personal energies and money triggered sudden “changes in taste” for Lowestoft’s fresh fish and Kirkley’s long sandy beach for the mass transport of people wanting seaside holidays. Kirkley was Lowestoft's small neighbour to the south, most of which eventually came under Lowestoft's political control. These are local examples of the resultant behaviour changes whereby Lowestoft became a major player in the combined growth of the British fishing industry and what is now called the hospitality industry. Peto’s model was Lowestoft’s neighbour Yarmouth a few miles up the coast, which had been perceived as being ripe for a similar development by his uncle. The coming of Peto’s railway to Lowestoft transformed the relationship between space, culture, society and history. In particular, it provoked transnational flows of people, capital and ideas into the town with profound impacts on urbanisation and the dynamics that shaped the identity of migrants and their affiliation with a capitalist economy.

Peto’s projects of the time were paralleled nationally by other Victorian inventors, entrepreneurs and developers and brought about a widespread reallocation of family labour from goods and services for direct consumption, to marketed commodities. The national outcomes were the appearance of proto- industrial production, the intensification of work, the extensive use of female and child labour and the commodification of leisure time. A few decades later this aggregation of traits would be used to portray the industrialised economy in Britain and recommend its material values to the rest of the world. In the period 1750-1900 industrialization has knit the world together, not just in having wrought profound technological change, but also in the consequences, both economic and social, of that change. Industrialization allowed for the mechanization of Euro-American societies and the mass production of commodities and finished goods. At the same time, industrialization facilitated the destruction of local environments all over the world with pollution and resource depletion. Signs that Lowestoft’s fishing industry was playing a role in the destruction of North Sea fish stocks had appeared by 1900.
Industrialization also provided the means by which Europeans, Americans, and the Japanese dominated cultures and societies around the globe through both formal and informal imperialism. As a result, the "progress" of the nineteenth century should be viewed globally, with truly global consequences that by the mid 20th century were challenging the entire planet and its people.