Report on Economic Growth Impact of the Railroad

One topic report is required during the semester.  A topic is to be chosen from the list shown below. The sources of information for the report can include our course textbook, lecture notes, and any additional readings the student may choose as a supplement – even Google.  Outside readings would be considered a potential enhancement to the report (assuming they add to its quality) and are quite welcome as long as they are cited in a simple manner.  No hand-written reports will be accepted.

Topics List                                         

Viability of Slavery

From antebellum abolitionists to modern historians, slavery was painted as an inefficient institution that was on the verge of dying under the weight of its inefficiency and harm to the Southern economy.  Modern studies have shown that slavery was thriving and would have continued for decades were it not for the Civil War.

Economic Growth Impact of the Railroad

Railroads were once given enormous credit for triggering and propelling economic growth to the point that they were deemed “indispensable” to that growth.  More recent studies have questioned that view.

Impact of the Civil War on Economic Growth

The Civil War was also lauded for its impact on stimulating US economic growth and propelling industrial expansion in the last decades of the 1800s.  More recent studies have shot holes in that case.

Each of these topics involves two very different views of history — a more traditional (or at least older) one and a revisionist one.  The purpose of the report is to compare and contrast the two views, both in their respective origins and in their influences on our view of the past and present.


Economic History Topic Report Format

  1. Topic title.
  2. Briefly state the two opposing views.
  3. Describe in some detail the more traditional view. Where did it come from?  What was it based upon?
  4. Describe in some detail the revisionist view. What data or reinterpretation was the basis of the revision?
  5. Briefly explain what the differences in the two views can mean to the picture we have of the past and/or present. In other words, why does this difference matter?

Your goal should be to display an articulate and well-organized understanding of the two sides of the issue and the significance those two sides have to understanding the past and present.