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Railroad Construction and Antebellum Slave Prices

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Slave prices rose rapidly to historic highs in the late-antebellum South. The boom in railroad construction in the South helps explain this large increase in slave prices. The economic connection between railroads and slave prices reconciles the views of traditional economic historians who thought slavery was economically irrational and the views of the new economic historians who have concluded that slavery was highly profitable. It was the massive public subsidies to railroads that explain it was public policy that provided the stimulant to slave prices, not the “peculiar” culture of the antebellum South or the planter efficient management of slave labor.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Georgia Southern University; 2: Ludwig von Mises Institute; 3: Baylor University

Publication date: 01 September 2003

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