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The Impact of Accessibility Change on the Geography of Crop Production: A Reexamination of the Illinois and Michigan Canal Using GIS

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This article employs spatial analysis techniques to examine adjustments in crop production in response to the completion of the Illinois and Michigan (I&M) canal in 1848. The scope of the analysis is the particular geographical transportation system focused on St. Louis and Chicago in the mid-nineteenth century. At that time the rapid development of improved modes of transport transformed the ability of productive growing areas to reach the market with their surplus. Using geographical information systems (GIS) to develop the necessary data (parameters, coefficients, networks, etc.), the article examines the redirection of Illinois's agricultural production toward the Great Lakes transportation system then emerging at Chicago. The reactions are presented as a set of equilibrium adjustments, and are contrasted with previous efforts, such as a famous counterfactual analysis by Fogel. Rather than attempt to work backward from a world with rail to a more primitive system of wagon and water transport, as Fogel does, this analysis works forward from a preexisting system and shows that the impacts of the changes produced further reinforcing dynamics. The article aims to incorporate spatial analytic models into historical studies with the aid of GIS.
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Keywords: accessibility; canal; historical GIS; spatial equilibrium; transportation improvements

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography, The Ohio State University

Publication date: 2007-03-01

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