Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Role Did Railroads Play in Changing Southern Society?

If you look at the railroad by itself then it's role in changing the South is already enormous. But the role of the railroad extends much further than just the physical tracks. The railroad companies and the industries related to railroads and running trains also have to be considered. Railroads grew rapidly in the South during the post-Civil War period. With the railroads came opportunities for quicker transportation of people and goods. It also brought with it other industries related to railroads, such as banking, insurance and even steel. This led to the growth of large cities that would take the place of the now declining city centers of the antebellum period. Birmingham had its steel, making it the "Pittsburgh of the South" and Atlanta was a railroad node, making it the leader in industrialization and urbanization in the post Civil War period. These new cities attracted large numbers of people who left the rural areas. Railroads brought northern investment as well, increasing urban development. These investors and the "urban boosters" in the South, such as Henry Grady wanted increased industrialization and a push towards urbanization. The railroad was a "big business" industry so the corruption and labor strife associated with it also made its way to the South. The railroads spread much more than industrialization and the "big business" corporate model. It also helped facilitate the spread of a national culture through the easy transport of products from all over the nation.

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