Economic View of American History From Colonial Times To 1940

Running head: Textbook: A New Economic View of American History From Colonial Times To 1940 Second Edition. Atack.J and Passell

Topic: Textbook: A New Economic View of American History From Colonial Times To 1940 Second Edition. Atack.J and Passell



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The new economic order was a word coined after the civil war to show determining economic force which was highly regarded in the post-industrial countries. This group of people represents a population of high integrity; high spenders who always seek new adventures in return offer potential for enormous returns and social transformation.

Both Americas were based on an agricultural economy that relied heavily on slave-induced labor for production: The North with manufacturing while the South was into production. America, north, emerged as an economic powerhouse from the civil war due to its ability to produce food even after the war because most Americans went back to farming. The US-owned large amounts of viable land (Taylor, 2009).

They made the land economically useful by creating systems and giving stimulus-like grants that lay a base for a sound economic expansion. Agriculture became the backbone of the economy during the war. The war also provided a platform for the implementation of machinery for farming and forming the way for the industrial revolution and new discoveries taking place. Due to their northern development of industries after the civil war, the economy boomed from the building of railroads, and expansion of commerce hence opening up their economy to the world. The movement of professionals to the cities to build a sound skilled job market saw an influx of people to the urban centres with incentives from housing and financial backing from the banks. The changes undergone during this stage changed the North American economy (Taylor, 2009).

In the South, on the other hand, the war devastated their economy and poverty became tantamount. After losing control of the important infrastructure for the export of their products, their economies were in regress. Their financial institutions collapsed during and after the war due to inflation sending the economy into ruins. Their dependence on cotton production played a large role in their failure to redeem themselves. Their transformation from the pre-civil war period to the after the civil war was slow. Most of the farmers were caught up in the armies, reducing food production thus the prices of commodities soared as inflation hit (Taylor, 2009).

There are many reasons why the economy of the South failed after the civil war. Slave trade and use were abolished. Their assurance of a strong economy was because the profits gained from farms were major because labor was free. They planted few major crops like cotton, sugar and tobacco without overly concern for the other crops thus the collapse of these crops caught them unprepared. They also housed a huge number of wounded individuals from the war decreasing the labor force in the south. Their dependence on farming as a way of life deemed their want for other industries, seemed unnecessary (Taylor, 2009).

Recently freed slaves took up the same farming practices. Most of them could not be taken to school and thus learned short-term courses in which they could specialize in no value was added to their economy.  As the northern economy was growing, the south was left behind for periods of up to one century to recover. Their transition from the traditional economic order to the new economic order dragged their recovery process. The North had adopted protective trade ensuring a strong manufacturing industry while the South had free trade (Taylor, 2009).

The existence of a free labor market means that the buyer and sellers trade without barriers. The American southern states practised slavery for economic gains more so, with the invention of the cotton gin which solidified slavery use in the South. Cotton was not only a product of the South but a driving force for the entire American economy.   The North became industrialized while the South was more of an agricultural economy. Slave labor sustained the economy of the South before the civil war. The civil war outcome was the abolishment of slavery and with it came the collapse of an economy that fully relied on the slaves for farming. Slave treatment was deplorable as purchasing and maintaining them was inexpensive (Romer, 2012).

The reason why the free market labor was not effective despite its presence alongside the slave labor was; the increase in the slave number as seen in the rise of the population from intermarriages between themselves and the birth of offspring. The slaves were seen as more effective in farm work, as opposed to their white counterparts. This however did not mean that there was inexistent free labor from the white population. The South grew other crops like tobacco and rice. Their production was overtaken by the demand for cotton replacing reliance on tobacco as a cash crop (Romer, 2012).

The Southern cotton boom was boosted by the invention of the cotton gin. This meant more production for shorter periods of time and an appetite for more slaves to overhaul the demand for cotton. The potential exhibited in their production in turn reverted to an economic boost and dependence on slaves to drive an economy. The powerful industry could never have been possible without the existence of such free labor during the introduction of the cotton gin (Romer, 2012).

Direct slave-based production and export of cotton cemented the economies of the south. Their renewed economic strength and saw them defend their right to own slaves during the antislavery uprising. Without slavery, the South would fall economically thus they had to fight growing withdrawal from northern states and movements with rebellion within. Owners of plantations needed more assistance and free work from their slaves for the South to continue with their economic surge. Their persistence in the trade continued only till after the civil war which rendered the practice illegal despite their defiance and political effort spent in its defence (Romer, 2012).

The South was left behind as the North prospered economically from the industrialization that was taking place. During the civil war, the support of slavery in the region that was so adamant in practising it declined. The South, after the war, deteriorated socially, politically and economically.  The free labor was no longer available sending the South into ruins. Despite efforts to rebuild the South to its former economic glory, the dream was not quite realized (Romer, 2012).

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The states of South economic success to date are a consequence of failure in the past over slave labor.  The American North had control and success in the industrial sector which was better than agriculture in the south. Economists will appreciate the cost-effectiveness of their approach to the economic stability of the South while sidelining the moral objections to practice; the method is hardly effective as the costs of uplifting former slaves would be immense. Gradual abolition of the practice was the most effective method (Romer, 2012).

Fogel’s three-line proof sought to show the contribution of the railroad to the economic growth of America since its inception in the 19th century. Fogel’s model of argument came from the comparison of the economic differences between horse-drawn wagons and the railroad. Historical arguments had laid emphasis on the importance the railroad played during the growth of the American economy (Romer, 2012).

The economy of both the North and the South was dependent on agriculture to remain viable. During the growth period, transportation of produce was done using water ways, canals and wagons. This method was argued to be very slow and unreliable until the onset of the railroad as Fogel tries to point out contrary to historical arguments. Fogel presented a model that if the railroads were unavailable, the costs of transporting the produce from the farms to the markets would have been enormous. Despite his argument, the overall contribution of the railroad to the economy was small (Attack, 1994).

            His argument contradicts the conception that the railroad changed the economy of the American people. His view was that the Americans could have been more productive had they lowered the importance they placed on the rail, and concentrated on the technologies to build more elaborate canals and roads. Building other alternatives could have lowered the costs of the transfer of goods to markets and other geographical locations (Attack, 1994).

            Economic analysis is the study of forces that determine the distribution and use of scarce resources. Another perfect example to demonstrate this effect is the persistent giving free aid to other countries outside the US. The view that it will bring in great returns from the goodwill is misguided. The consequence of this demonstration has been the plunge of the economy into huge financial debts. Another is the advancement of the military jumbo to fight terror in other nations. The government spends millions of dollars whilst the economy of the country hangs in the balance.  At some time the war has brought more harm than prosperity (Attack, 1994).

An implied reader is a term used to ‘denote the figure of the reader whom a given work is designed to address’.  Such a reader is passive or active as the text structures the response but produces and builds consistency. The distinction between implied and actual readers is their willingness to occupy their positions. Literature on economics is not intended to make sense to everyone.  The economic student is charged with the task of reading and understanding from the economics point of view making an analysis over the orthodox mode of its understanding. Students are attracted to the beauty of the intuition of economics. This packaging beauty of the information will make lectures interesting (Attack, 1994). 

This paper maintains that the profitability of the slave trade practised during the civil war period was never profitable from the start. The slavery only survived under a controlled democracy. Free labor was not enough for the realization of the economic boom that the South wanted to experience. The use of slaves was prolonged in the South due to statutes that prohibited the private manumission of slaves. The complexity of the use of the slave trade as an economic pillar for a country makes it extremely difficult to determine what would have happened to those states in the complete absence of the slaves.


Atack, J. and Passell. (1994) A new Economic View of American History From Colonial Times To 1940 Second Edition. New York: W W Norton & Company Incorporated

Romer, D. (2012).  Advanced Macroeconomics.  New York: McGraw-Hill Irwin

Taylor, J. (2009).  Economics, 6th ed.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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