Related Case Studies
Slavery and Railroad Expansion
Southern railroads extended in the 1850s to places where slavery was not yet firmly established by white planters. The upcountry South, the Appalachian mountains, and the western borders of the South were all areas of significant railroad development. Wherever railroads went, slavery and some form of plantation agriculture followed. White southerners, it seems, saw little inconsistency between slavery and industrial development, especially railroads. The Southern states laid down over 8,300 miles of track in the decade of the 1850s, a huge increase over its 1840s network. In fact, 75 per cent of the total railroad mileage that the Confederacy would have at the start of the Civil War in 1861 was newly constructed in the 1850s. Only the Northwestern states of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Iowa could match this new mileage or boast a similarly rapid growth rate. The two regions, the South and the Northwest, shared constructed almost all of the 22,000 miles built in the U.S during the decade.
This App focuses on exploring the relationship between slavery and railroad development in the South over time. It features county level data on population (free persons and enslaved persons) and slaveholding from the U.S. Census (NHGIS University of Minnesota), GIS spatial data on railroad line growth, and GIS spatial data on rail junctions and depots integrated here.
Coclanis, Peter. (2003). "Off Track: The Railroading of Antebellum Southern Economic History," Social Science Quarterly Vol. 84 No. 3: 738-743.
Collins, Steven G. (1999). "Progress and Slavery on the South's Railroads," Railroad History, Autumn.
Downey, Tom. (2006). Planting a Capitalist South: Masters, Merchants, and Manufacturers in the Southern Interior, 1790-1860. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
Freehling, William. (2007). The Road to Disunion: Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kornweibel, Jr., Theodore. "Railroads and Slavery" Railroad History, Fall Winter 2003.
Majewski, John A. (2009). Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
--------. (2000). House Dividing: Economic Development in Pennsylvania and Virginia Before the Civil War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Marrs, Aaron. (2009). Railroads in the Old South: Pursuing Progress in a Slave Society. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Morgan, Chad. (2005). Planters' Progress: Modernizing Confederate Georgia. Gainesvile: University Press of Florida.
Noe, Kenneth W. (1994). Southwest Virginia's Railroad: Modernization and the Sectional Crisis. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Thomas, William G. and Edward L. Ayers. (2003). "The Differences Slavery Made: A Close Analysis of Two American Communities," American Historical Review. (http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/AHR/)
Wetherington, Mark V. (2005). Plain Folk's Fight: The Civil War and Reconstruction in Piney Woods Georgia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Wood, W. Kirk. "U.B. Phillips and Antebellum Southern Rail Inferiority: The Origins of a Myth," Southern Studies 26 (Fall/Winter 1987).
Wright, Gavin. (2006). Slavery and Economic Development. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.