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Far from seeing the Old South as backward and premodern, Marrs finds evidence of urban life, industry, and entrepreneurship throughout the region. But these signs of progress existed alongside efforts to preserve traditional ways of life. Railroads exemplified Southerners' pursuit of progress on their own terms: Railroads in the Old South demonstrates that a simple approach to the Old South fails to do justice to its complexity and contradictions.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the utilization of slave labor was not limited to agricultural production, but was also employed in industrial production.


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As Marrs illustrates in Sweat, engineers and contractors employed slave laborers extensively in the construction of railroad networks throughout the South. The use of slave labor in railway construction rivaled that of agriculture.

Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society - Aaron W. Marrs - Google Книги

Marrs cites the following evidence to illustrate this point:. While railroad workers were not necessarily concentrated in a single area as they would be on plantations, railroads involved some of the largest mobilizations of manpower in southern states before the Civil War. Projects of this scale were unprecedented. Chapter four, titled Structure , reveals that southern railways were exposed to the same market pressures as their northern counterparts.

As such, they had to implement similar managerial structures and organizational techniques that would in turn ensure the commercial success of the large financial investment inherent in railroad production and operation.

These three aspects are the demand of freight, conflict with nature, and accidents. Marrs examines how these three factors impacted railroads operations and the strategies and procedures that were designed to deal with these challenges. Here Marrs highlighted the central feature of railroads as mechanisms that facilitated market exchange between buyers and sellers. Trains were used to transport items ranging from artificial manures to wood.


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  • They were utilized to transport slaves as well as cotton, which constituted its primary freight. The list of items for which freight rates were established, along with the growing income derived by the Central Railroad of Georgia from , points to the fact that the railroads of the South were linked to regional markets, which in turn were linked to national and international markets, which ultimately made the income derived from commercial activities viable.

    Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society

    These local, regional, and national profit centers were linked to an international market whose epicenter was Western Europe, in general, and England, in particular. This Eurocentric dominated world economy was characterized by multiple political centers and one evolving world economy. Goods and services flowed across political boundaries and people and regions played different roles in the emerging world wide division of labor.

    Specifically, the need to charge competitive prices for your services; to control the impact of nature on business operations and to minimize the liabilities associated with accidents. Chapters six and seven are titled Passages and Communities , respectively.

    These Chapters address the different constituencies that utilized this new technology and the appeal that travel by rail held for Antebellum travelers. He shows convincingly that both in the South and the North one can frequently find qualitative evidence i of entrepreneurs and other citizens promoting railroad development, ii of rivalry between different regions or social groups delaying the arrival of railroads, iii of a nationwide common pool of ideas and engineers that built railroads, iv of a complex organization of work to provide rail service, and v of life changes for many with rail transport.

    A Helluva Way to Run a Railroad

    But, if one is to follow this line of argument, one would be led to believe that both the North and the South developed a similar intensity in railroad building and use during the antebellum period. However, we know this is not the case. The differences in track miles built, railroad earnings, and traffic between the North and the South during the antebellum period were great.

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