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The Roots of American Industrialization (Creating the North American Landscape)

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9780801871412: The Roots of American Industrialization (Creating the North American Landscape)
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How did the Eastern United States of the antebellum era make the successful transformation from an agricultural to an industrial economy? Previous studies have identified declining soil fertility and increased competition from the Midwest as incentives for Easterners to abandon farms for factories. But as David R. Meyer points out in this groundbreaking study, agriculture in the East was, in fact, thriving during this time, even as manufacturing began its period of explosive growth.

In The Roots of American Industrialization Meyer reexamines previous studies, provides new evidence, and presents a new explanation. He argues that agriculture and industry both grew and transformed, thus constituting mutually reinforcing processes. Eastern agriculture thrived from 1790 to 1860, and rising farm productivity permitted surplus labor to enter factories and provided swelling food supplies for growing rural and urban populations. Farms that were on poor soil and distant from markets declined, whereas other farms successfully adjusted production as rural and urban markets expanded and as Midwestern agricultural products flowed eastward after 1840. Rural and urban demand for manufactures in the East supported diverse industrial development, and prosperous rural areas and burgeoning cities supplied increasing amounts of capital for investment. Metropolitan regional hinterlands around Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and, to a lesser extent, Baltimore, experienced broadly similar transformations of agriculture and manufacturing, forming the eastern anchor of the American manufacturing belt.

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Review:

"Meyer's analysis is clearly formulated, carefully argued, and in its terms comprehensive."

(Thomas J. Misa Journal of American History)

"Claiming that his analysis moves chronologically forward beginning with 1790 rather than starting with assumptions borne from an understanding of industrialization as it existed in 1860, Meyer provides the reader with some powerful insights."

(John Heitmann History: Reviews of New Books)

"Meyer... makes a useful contribution by reviewing how industrialization started in the agrarian United States."

(B. Zorina Khan EH.Net)

"The idea that regions need not specialize in either farming or manufacturing is an idea familiar to economic historians, but this book offer an interesting and insightful analysis of the American East from 1780 to 1860."

(Choice)

"Over the years numerous scholars have tried to explain the origins and nature of the industrialisation process in the United States. For a variety of reasons, the versatile and prolific geographer David R. Meyer is dissatisfied with conventional explanations, and in his stimulating new study, The Roots of American Industrialization, he attempts to set the record straight."

(Peter A. Coclanis Business History)

"A well-researched description of American industrialization before 1860."

(Joshua L. Rosenbloom Economic History Review)

"A very fine book and a major contribution to the history of American economic development... Unpretentious but richly rewarding... Delivers on its promises and leaves the reader with much material to chew on."

(Richard Walker Geographical Review)

"Impressive study... has much to offer to historians of antebellum America."

(Sean Patrick Adams Enterprise and Society)

"David Meyer cleverly combines the disciplines of economics, geography, history, sociology, and urban studies. His story of economic growth and development, technological change, and urbanization does for the East Coast manufacturing district what Nature's Metropolis does for Chicago. The Roots of American Industrialization is an insightful look at the East Coast in the antebellum period, when its cities grew internally and met the external challenge of the Midwest, when its industrial plants had yet to reach full flower, before there was any hint of rust."

(Louis P. Cain, Northwestern University)

"Meyer has provided a major synthesis of scholarship in historical geography and economic history, which convincingly pushes the roots of industrial transformation of America back to the initial decades of the nineteenth century, locates them squarely in the East without the necessity of interregional trade complementarity, and finds the key in eastern agricultural prosperity. From the synthesis of such a broad array of literature emerges a new interpretation of the industrial transformation of the national economy and its spatial manifestation."

(Edward K. Muller, University of Pittsburgh)

About the Author:

David R. Meyer is a professor of Sociology and Urban Studies at Brown University. He is the author of Hong Kong as a Global Metropolis.

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