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Ocean Freight Rates and Economic Development 1730-1913

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  • North, Douglass

Abstract

Revolutionary developments in transport have been an essential feature of the rapiddevelopments in transportgrowth of the past two centuries. Reduction in the cost of carriage has enabled specialization and division of labor on a national and international basis to replace the relatively self-sufficient economies that predominated in the western world two centuries ago. The striking role of the railroad in the nineteenth century is well known. However, it was water transport in which the bulk shipment of commodities began, and it was the development of ocean shipping that was an integral aspect of die growing economic interdependence of the western world, the opening up of the undeveloped continents, and the promotion of the settlement of the “empty lands.†The declining cost of ocean transportation was a process of widening the resource base of the western world. The agriculture of new countries was stimulated (and that of old countries at least temporarily depressed), the specter of famine as a result of crop failure reduced, and the raw materials were provided for industrialization. In short, the radical decline in ocean freight rates was an important part of the redirection of the resources of the western world in the course of the vast development of die past two centuries.

Suggested Citation

  • North, Douglass, 1958. "Ocean Freight Rates and Economic Development 1730-1913," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 18(4), pages 537-555, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:18:y:1958:i:04:p:537-555_10
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