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Transport costs and economic growth in a backward economy: the case of Peru, 1820-1920


  • Zegarra, Luis Felipe


This paper analyses the system of transportation and discusses the effect of geography and transport infrastructure on transport costs and economic growth in Peru during the 19 th and early 20 th centuries. Using primary and secondary sources, I find that geography imposed difficult transport challenges on Peruvians during this period. There were no navigable rivers in coastal and highland regions, railroads were scarce and most roads were inadequate for wagons, sometimes even for horses and mules. As a result, transport costs were extremely high, which constituted a barrier to trade, reduced gains from specialisation and retarded economic growth. Therefore, high transport costs seem to be one important factor in explaining the low income levels of Peru in the early 20 th century in spite of the country's large endowments of natural resources.

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  • Zegarra, Luis Felipe, 2011. "Transport costs and economic growth in a backward economy: the case of Peru, 1820-1920," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(03), pages 361-392, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:reveco:v:29:y:2011:i:03:p:361-392_00

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    1. Vincent Bignon & Rui Esteves & Alfonso Herranz-Loncán, 2015. "Big push or big grab? Railways, government activism, and export growth in Latin America, 1865–1913," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(4), pages 1277-1305, November.

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