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Build it and they will come? Secondary railways and population density in French Algeria

Laura Maravall Buckwalter
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Laura Maravall Buckwalter: Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

No 18008, Working Papers from Economic History Society

Abstract: "By the end of the 19th century, the Algerian railway network played a crucial role as an instrument for settlement expansion and colonial control. A growing amount of research shows that railway expansion at this time allowed previously marginalized regions to participate in international trade and thereby boosting growth. Yet few studies point out that it also increased marginalization and reinforced dual economies in areas that did not experience access to the infrastructure or that did not have the required economies to profit from and engage in international markets. This paper looks into the effect of gaining railroad access on the indigenous and settler population density in French Algeria during this period. By taking advantage of unique territorial population data at a sub-municipal level and digitized historical colonization maps in the Constantine region, it measures the effect of gaining railway access in relatively isolated areas – areas in which the infrastructure arrived later – using a differences- in-differences methodology. Results show that the indigenous population responded positively to railroad infrastructure only in those regions where settlers were already located while the settler density did not respond to the infrastructure. To provide an explanation, it then analyzes freight and passenger transport at a more detailed level. In line with literature on Algerian railways, the results suggest that the potential gains were restricted by tariffs, which mirrored Constantine’s difficulty to engage in scale economies due to geographical restrictions, such as the limited fertile land and the vulnerability of agricultural production to climate."

JEL-codes: N00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-ara, nep-gro, nep-his and nep-tre
Date: 2018-04
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