By Aaron-Vir Chana Year 13 History
‘The most important reason for expansion in the West in the years 1865-90 was the development of the railroads.’ Assess the validity of this view. [25 Marks]
The USA experienced rapid westward expansion from the 1860’s onwards due to the interaction of a variety of factors. This, in turn, had important economic and social effects on the USA. There were many major improvements in both economic and social fields that led to the rapid expansion westward of the USA. Before 1865, the USA was a primitive country, like the only way to travel across the country was by wagon or horse. The main factors that played a part in the USA’s rapid industrial expansion included the Civil War, population growth, developments in transport and technological and business innovation.
The USA experienced a massive nationwide revolution in transport. This included the introduction of the railroad, which provided a fast and very efficient way of travelling across the country. An example of this is instead of taking 6 months travelling from New York to San Francisco pre 1865, it now took just 6 days via railroad. Another example of this is transporting raw materials such as coal from the West Virginia coalfields to the industrial factories of New England, but also distributing the finished goods as well as cattle from Texas to Chicago meatpacking plants. In 1869, the first Transcontinental Railroad opened up the far west mining and ranching regions. Railroads helped expand the USA by employing thousands of workers. By 1900 they employed more than 1 million workers. All of whom were consumers. They also encouraged demand in other fields of products, such as steel and coal which were both needed as they were in high demand by the railroad companies to produce engines and other railroad vehicles, also to produce railroad stations. This encouraged completion which pushed down prices and led to technological improvements to improve quality. The rail companies needed roads in order to be able to distribute the new areas and this created even more growth. This also encouraged migration into the US from countries in the east such as China after the Berlingame Treaty in 1868. This allowed many Chinese workers to migrate to the US and work for the railroad companies to build railroads. This worked out better for those railroad companies as they paid less for cheap hard working labour. 2.8 million people moved to the USA during the 1870’s as people came from all over Europe and Asia in search for a better standard of living. They had followed the ‘American Dream’ myth and believed that anyone could become rich and great in America. Many of the new immigrants moved into cities and this helped as it forced an industrial revolution in these cities, as the cheap labour force was what was needed to improve the cities.
Another massive income gained by the US during this period was given by Great Britain over the debates about Canadian lands. The US...