Pre-Civil War Economy

Essay by ctannahill January 2009

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The economy in the United States pre-civil war era was varied depending on what region is being discussed. The changes in economic practices in the Northern and Southern economies were vastly different. These changes and differences between these two regions had such an impact on the course of history that the effects can still be debated as a cause of the war. Although there are many economic features unique for each region three key features for each will be discussed.

The economy in the Northern states experienced a major change in the era before the Civil War. The first of these changes were the industrialization of the region. Advancements in technology and manufacturing led to the expanded use of factories which was first seen in textile manufacturing (Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, Gross, and Brands, 2006 p.176). This was a shift from the agriculture based economy of previous years.

The next economic feature was the development of the wage labor system.

With the rise in manufacturing and the emergence of mills and factories the need for employees rose (Divine et al. 2006 p. 177). There was a shift in where individuals earned their income. Before most wages were earned in and around the home. With the new jobs available many went to work for these companies and earned wages. This was seen much more in the northern states than in the southern states due to the large scale industrialization that was seen in the north.

The last economic feature of the Northern states was the large scale urbanization. Millions of people, which also included new immigrants, moved to cities to find employment (Cracraft, 2008). This brought about large economic growth centralized in large cities. This development also gave rise to America’s first middle class (Cracraft, 2008).

The economy in the southern...