Proposal preview

The transport economy before the coming of the railways

The recent wave of deregulations in transportation has caused a reconsideration of the features of this market. While historians have carried out many studies on globalization and economic integration processes from the industrial revolution to the late 20th century, the functioning of the transport industry remains relatively unexplored before the coming of the railways. Yet, it was once the backbone of markets and mobility. Certainly maritime transport played a central role in the growth of the global economy, but the growth of the overseas and European trades cannot be understood without knowing more about the role of internal transportation in supplying ports and the distribution of imported goods. The transport economy is generally expressed in terms of infrastructures and networks, but rarely studied through the social and economic organization of a market composed of suppliers and users of transport services. The objective of this session is to propose new perspectives for a better understanding of transport markets, which were characterized by a relative segmentation according to the transport mode (sea, road and waterways), the contexts (civil/military transport), the speed of conveyance, the nature of the traffic (freight, passengers and mail) and the scale (urban/interregional/intercontinental). The transport industry is generally considered to include activities related to providing passenger or freight transport, by road and water, and auxiliary activities such as handling and storage. Such understanding of the structures and the changes in transportation markets focuses attention to levels of competition between service providers, the relative productivity of the transport means, the measurement of the transport prices and their impact on the market integration, the role of the regulation, and the activity of the companies. This session will bring together scholars to address these important themes and to define the proper basis of comparison.

Organizer(s)

  • Anne Conchon University Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne anne.conchon@univ-paris1.fr
  • Dan Bogart Irvine University (USA) dbogart@uci.edu

Session members

  • Björn Hasselgren, Uppsala University
  • Xavier Duran, University of los Andes
  • Peter Rauscher, Vienna University
  • Anne Conchon, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
  • Warren Whatley , Chicago of Michigan
  • Dan Bogart, Irvine University (USA)

Discussant(s)

Papers

Panel abstract

The functioning of the transport industry remains relatively unexplored before the coming of the railways. The transport economy is generally expressed in terms of infrastructures and networks, but rarely studied through the social and economic organization of a market composed of suppliers and users of transport services. The objective of this session is to propose new perspectives for a better understanding of transport markets, which were characterized by a relative segmentation according to the transport mode (sea, road and waterways), the speed of conveyance, the nature of the traffic and the scale (urban/interregional/intercontinental). Such understanding of the structures and the changes in transportation markets focuses attention to levels of competition between service providers, the relative productivity of the transport means, the measurement of the transport prices and their impact on the market integration, the role of the regulation, and the activity of the companies.

1st half

Göta Kanal financing and organization

Bjorn Hassegren

Göta Kanal is one of Sweden’s to this date largest single infrastructure projects. It connects Sweden’s major lakes Vättern and Vänern enabling passage from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea. The canal was completed in 1832 following 22 years of construction. As the canal was finished railway construction was taking off, soon making one of Sweden’s largest ever investments obsolete. A series of government decisions were taken in 1810 establishing the private Göta canal company. The project was deliberately kept out of direct government control in order to infuse entrepreneurial spirit. A bank-permit was given to the Göta canal company as part of government support to the project. The paper analyzes the organization and financing of the project. A series of government support activities to the corporation were necessary as costs soared and the finalization was delayed, changing the balance between the private and public actors in the project.

Göta Kanal is one of Sweden’s to this date largest single infrastructure projects. It connects Sweden’s major lakes Vättern and Vänern enabling passage from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea. The canal was completed in 1832 following 22 years of construction. As the canal was finished railway construction was taking off, soon making one of Sweden’s largest ever investments obsolete. A series of government decisions were taken in 1810 establishing the private Göta canal company. The project was deliberately kept out of direct government control in order to infuse entrepreneurial spirit. A bank-permit was given to the Göta canal company as part of government support to the project. The paper analyzes the organization and financing of the project. A series of government support activities to the corporation were necessary as costs soared and the finalization was delayed, changing the balance between the private and public actors in the project.

Why not using the wheel ? Evidence from the Cambao wagon road in nineteenth century Colombia

Xavier Duran

Why didn’t Andean countries adopt wagon roads? In Europe and North America adoption of wagon roads led to the road transportation revolution during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In contrast, modern Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, all on the Andes, used arrieria roads, similar to mule-pack roads, as the dominant intercity transport mode even up to early twentieth century. We explore the determinants of adoption and find that ruggedness, poor and fragmented settlements, and the difficulties organizing collective action all explain delayed adoption.

Why didn’t Andean countries adopt wagon roads? In Europe and North America adoption of wagon roads led to the road transportation revolution during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In contrast, modern Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, all on the Andes, used arrieria roads, similar to mule-pack roads, as the dominant intercity transport mode even up to early twentieth century. We explore the determinants of adoption and find that ruggedness, poor and fragmented settlements, and the difficulties organizing collective action all explain delayed adoption.

Trade in the Age of Mercantilism The Aschach Toll Registers as a Source on the Exchange of Goods in the Upper Danube Basin (1st Half of the 18th century)

Peter Rauscher

Toll registers are the most significant means of measuring trade flows in early modern Europe. In contrast to other regions, and the Baltic in particular, we lack sufficient data to address the economic history of Central Europe. This lecture presents the Aschach (Upper Austria) toll registers as a unique and substantial source for the exploration and analysis of trade and transport in the Upper Danube Basin. The river constituted the most important transport route in the south of the Holy Roman Empire, connecting Austrian commercial cities like Linz and Vienna to the industrial regions of Upper Germany. The Danube also linked Central Europe to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Ottoman economies. The “Aschach Toll Registers” project, seated at the University of Vienna, provides information regarding the quantities of goods conveyed as well as extensive details regarding the shippers and merchants engaged in Danube trade.

Toll registers are the most significant means of measuring trade flows in early modern Europe. In contrast to other regions, and the Baltic in particular, we lack sufficient data to address the economic history of Central Europe. This lecture presents the Aschach (Upper Austria) toll registers as a unique and substantial source for the exploration and analysis of trade and transport in the Upper Danube Basin. The river constituted the most important transport route in the south of the Holy Roman Empire, connecting Austrian commercial cities like Linz and Vienna to the industrial regions of Upper Germany. The Danube also linked Central Europe to the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Ottoman economies. The “Aschach Toll Registers” project, seated at the University of Vienna, provides information regarding the quantities of goods conveyed as well as extensive details regarding the shippers and merchants engaged in Danube trade.

2nd half

Transport supply and economic dynamics (France in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries)

Anne Conchon

Until the middle of the 18th century the high transport prices in France were commonly seen as the consequence of the poor quality of the thoroughfares. It was presumed that large investments in the building of new infrastructures and their regular repair until the French Revolution would reduce transport prices. The objective of this paper is to understand the complex determinants of the freight rates and their evolution (the temporal fluctuations, the relative speed of locomotion, the structure of the transport supply…) and to assess their impact in shaping the space of flows. This study is based on data gathered at that time by general surveys on freight prices in a context of growing haulage and ongoing integration of the internal market.

Until the middle of the 18th century the high transport prices in France were commonly seen as the consequence of the poor quality of the thoroughfares. It was presumed that large investments in the building of new infrastructures and their regular repair until the French Revolution would reduce transport prices. The objective of this paper is to understand the complex determinants of the freight rates and their evolution (the temporal fluctuations, the relative speed of locomotion, the structure of the transport supply…) and to assess their impact in shaping the space of flows. This study is based on data gathered at that time by general surveys on freight prices in a context of growing haulage and ongoing integration of the internal market.

Transport cost in precolonial Africa

Warren Wathley

This paper develops a GIS raster of transport cost in precolonial Africa, a fundamental constraint on precolonial political and economic development. The technology set included walking and canoe. The end product is an surface cost raster that combines walking speeds over a variety of terrains (using the Waldo Tobbler Hiking Function as the vertical factor of a DEM elevation projection) and canoe speeds along rivers of different velocities (using The Major River Basins of the World, classified by mean annual discharge and estimates of river velocity developed from afriv). As a demonstration, the model is used to estimate the time to travel from anywhere on the continent to the nearest transatlantic slave port between 1500 and 1850. The model is easily updated and can be used to estimate the hours of travel from any point of origin to any destinations in precolonial Africa.

This paper develops a GIS raster of transport cost in precolonial Africa, a fundamental constraint on precolonial political and economic development. The technology set included walking and canoe. The end product is an surface cost raster that combines walking speeds over a variety of terrains (using the Waldo Tobbler Hiking Function as the vertical factor of a DEM elevation projection) and canoe speeds along rivers of different velocities (using The Major River Basins of the World, classified by mean annual discharge and estimates of river velocity developed from afriv). As a demonstration, the model is used to estimate the time to travel from anywhere on the continent to the nearest transatlantic slave port between 1500 and 1850. The model is easily updated and can be used to estimate the hours of travel from any point of origin to any destinations in precolonial Africa.

Speedier delivery: coastal shipping times and speeds during the age of sail

Dan Bogart, Oliver Dunn, Eduard Alvarez-Palau and Leigh Shaw-Taylor,

Coastal shipping has been described as the ‘vital spark’ igniting economic growth in Britain. We provide the first quantitative analysis of long-term changes in journey times and speeds in English and Welsh coastal shipping during the age of sail. We use new sources which reveal timings and speeds for numerous coastal journeys from 1830 to 1845 and also for the mid to late 1600s. Our methodology compares journeys across time with similar observable characteristics. We find evidence for significant differences in speed and times. Journey speeds are approximately 160% greater c.1835 and journey times are approximately half by this date. Similar differences are found for time spent in port and time for voyages cycling between ports. Overall, there is consistent evidence that coastal shipping provided speedier delivery by the 1830s. This result contributes to a better understanding of productivity growth in coastal shipping and its impact on the British economy.

Coastal shipping has been described as the ‘vital spark’ igniting economic growth in Britain. We provide the first quantitative analysis of long-term changes in journey times and speeds in English and Welsh coastal shipping during the age of sail. We use new sources which reveal timings and speeds for numerous coastal journeys from 1830 to 1845 and also for the mid to late 1600s. Our methodology compares journeys across time with similar observable characteristics. We find evidence for significant differences in speed and times. Journey speeds are approximately 160% greater c.1835 and journey times are approximately half by this date. Similar differences are found for time spent in port and time for voyages cycling between ports. Overall, there is consistent evidence that coastal shipping provided speedier delivery by the 1830s. This result contributes to a better understanding of productivity growth in coastal shipping and its impact on the British economy.