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Economic Growth of the United States,…

Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860 (1961)

by Douglass C. North

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North uses graphs based upon economic statistics to demonstrate the cyclical nature of American economic growth in the years after the Napoleonic Wars ended and before the American Civil War. During this period the US was at peace and not affected by any external military conflict. The result of this was increasing economic interdependence between the three regions of the country, Each of which developed according to a dynamic linked to the sale of government land in the south and the west.

It is the sale of government (read native) land that fuelled the expansion of the cotton industry in the south. This in turn allowed the West and the Northeast t develop in the first period of expansion immediately following the establishment of peace at the conclusion of the second English war. During this period, the South relied upon staples from the West and manufactures from the Northeast to expand its cotton manufactures.

During the second boom period in the 1830s (when yet another great land grab had made Indian land available for sale), the South once again expanded cotton agriculture. The expansion of the Southern economy fed the development of Western and Northern economies which then expanded their infrastructure in leaps and bounds to meet Southern needs. The dependency of the South on agriculture was not broken during either of these two boom periods, because cotton agriculture worked so well as an engine of economic development.

The resurgence in the economy in the late 1850s did not affect the South as had the previous two booms. By that time the West and the Northeast had developed sufficient infrastructure, to a large extent fuelled previously by King Cotton, to carry out their own trade in manufactures with overseas markets. The Northeast and the West invested in not only railroads and canals, but also education. None of this was the case in the "Cotton South." The basis for large scale manufacture was already laid in the Northeast and the West before 1860.
  mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
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