Davis, Lance Robert W.
Harvard University Press, There is more to the story of American Railroads, though, than that of well-crafted scholarly work.
His statistical appendices, which totaled more than pages, indicate how rigorously he tackled the problem. The quantitative element of American Railroads reflected the rise of the New Economic History, which was transforming their field through the use of formal models and sophisticated statistical techniques.
Gerschenkron, in fact, also served as mentor for Paul David and Peter Temin, two other distinguished contributors to the New Economic History.
Fogel famously argued that railroads made a relatively small contribution to U. Fishlow, on the other hand, estimated the social savings of railroads in was 4 percent of GNP.
The key difference rested on the way each defined social savings. Fishlow estimated the social savings by comparing railroads to actual alternatives available in the antebellum period.
Fogel, on the other hand, calculated the social savings of railroads to a vast system of improved roads and canals that nineteenth-century Americans might have built in the absence of railroads. Fogel, in essence, compared railroads to an economy that did not exist.
If Fishlow and Fogel philosophically disagreed over the nature of social savings, their work nevertheless had much in common.
Fishlow shows, for example, that most locomotives in the antebellum period burned wood, which meant that railroads used a surprisingly little coal. As for iron, Fishlow demonstrates that railroads accounted for only 20 percent of net consumption in the s. Twenty percent was certainly significant, as Fishlow notes, but hardly revolutionary.
Nor did railroads single handily create the machinery industry. Steamboats, in fact, demanded far more in the way of large, sophisticated engines. Railroads led to the creation of new farms and the growth of towns and cities that could market and process the growing surplus of grains, hogs, and cattle.
Fishlow persuasively argued that these railroads were not built ahead of demand. Midwestern railroads, in fact, ran through densely populated areas, which intensified development in locales best suited for commercial agriculture. Almost from the very beginning, these railroads made substantial profits, which one would not expect from developmental enterprises built ahead of demand.
Private capital markets with occasional help from local governments financed most Midwestern railroads, thus confirming that investors expected these companies to make money sooner rather than later. Since antebellum railroads generally made money, investment from the national or state governments was not important.
The influence of American Railroads, not surprisingly, subtly waned. Fogel, of course, never shied away from debate and controversy. Fogel formally modeled his conception of social savings.This essay tells the story of that transformation and its effect on the practice of economic history.
In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the field among historians, and the essay ends with a discussion of the potential that Economic history had its formal beginnings in the United States in the late nineteenth. Cliometrics and Railroads and American Economic Growth.
Fogel's first major study involving cliometrics was Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History (). This tract sought to quantify the railroads' contribution to U.S. economic growth in the 19th century.
Robert E. Riegel; Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric History. By Robert William Fogel. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, xv + pp.
Tables, charts, figures, notes, appendices, selected bibliography, and index. $). Robert W. Fogel, Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric srmvision.comore: Johns Hopkins Press, xv + pp.
Review Essay by Lance Davis, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology.
Robert W. Fogel, Railroads and American Economic Growth: Essays in Econometric srmvision.comore: Johns Hopkins Press, xv + pp. Review Essay by Lance Davis, Division of Humanities and Social Sciences, California Institute of Technology.
NBER Working Paper No. Issued in July NBER Program(s):Development of the American Economy, Development Economics, Economic Fluctuations and Growth, International Trade and Investment. This paper examines the historical impact of railroads on the American economy.