Roads to Market. Transport and Agricultural Change - the case of southern Sweden, 1750-1850
Sammanfattning: In most parts of preindustrial Europe, road transport was a crucial part of rural life as it linked the agricultural producers with urban markets. This study focuses on the development of road transport during the agricultural transformation in order to understand its importance in agricultural change. Scania, in southern Sweden, provides the possibility of examining the basic patterns in the road transport sector in preindustrial Europe in relation to other typical features of an agricultural setting in a preindustrial economy, such as different categories of landownership and different characteristics of natural conditions. As in most parts of preindustrial Europe, outside England and the Netherlands, there were few investments in new roads and a lack of institutional change of the road maintenance system in Scania and Sweden during the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century. The road networks in most European countries were maintained by local authorities (e.g. towns, parishes, villages) with local financing during this period. The empirical results provide three important insights for understanding the development of road transport and its role in agricultural change. First, the evidence shows that in a period where there were few investments in new roads and a lack of institutional change to the road maintenance system, producers invested in their transport means to increase their transport productivity. Second, the study shows that the roads were usable, despite the absence of an institutional change to the road maintenance system and investments in the road network during the agricultural transformation. Third, it demonstrates that it was predominantly the local agricultural conditions, rather than changes in market access, that influenced the incentives and possibilities of increasing output during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
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