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Was Civil War surgery effective?


  • Matthew J. Baker


During the U.S. Civil War surgeons performed a vast number of surgeries. Whether surgery increased wounded soldiers’ chances of survival has been debated ever since. I analyze a unique observational data set gathered by Dr. Edmund Andrews, a surgeon with the 1st Illinois Light Artillery. I use Dr. Andrews’s data, model selection tools, and doubly robust estimation methods to estimate treatment effects from surgery. I find that surgery increased wounded soldiers’ chances of survival by 0.09–0.16, depending on the specific model of surgical procedure.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew J. Baker, 2018. "Was Civil War surgery effective?," Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 51(1), pages 49-61, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:vhimxx:v:51:y:2018:i:1:p:49-61
    DOI: 10.1080/01615440.2017.1408440

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    JEL classification:

    • N31 - Economic History - - Labor and Consumers, Demography, Education, Health, Welfare, Income, Wealth, Religion, and Philanthropy - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N41 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models


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