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University of California-Irvine

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Title: Transport and urban growth in the first industrial revolution

Abstract: During the first industrial revolution the English economy underwent a spatial transformation to go along with its structural transformation in employment. It became highly urbanized and, apart from London, its urban center shifted to the northwest. This paper examines the role of transport in causing this spatial transformation. Transport changed
greatly with infrastructure improvements and technological and organizational innovations. We focus on those occurring before the era of railways and steam ships, when wagons, canals, and sail ships were dominant. We construct a measure of market access for 458 towns in 1680 and 1830 using a new multi-modal transport model and then estimate the effects of lower trade costs through changes in market access.  Our regression model controls for various town characteristics, including coal endowments. The results show that changes in market access had a large positive effect on changes in urban population. Through counterfactuals we estimate that England’s urban population would have been 11% lower if trade costs remained constant from 1680 to 1830. The results contribute to a new understanding of the industrial revolution and spatial economic growth more generally.

Bio: Dan Bogart is a professor of Economics at UC Irvine. He has been a visiting professor at Caltech and NYU. His primary field of research is economic history, but he has interests in urban economics, economic growth, and political economy. He is presently the co-editor at the Journal of Economic History and an Executive committee member for International Economic History Association. He has also served as Graduate Director for the Economics department at UC Irvine and was the primary supervisor for 9 economics PhD students since 2003. His website is