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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Wagons at work, or a transport revolution from below: the case of southern Sweden, 1750-1850

Bergenfeldt, Fredrik; Olsson, Mats; Svensson, Patrick


The introduction of turnpike trusts has been considered to be an integral part of the rapid decline in transport costs in England. Institutional change in the transport system or the lack thereof has been used to explain if, and when, a transport revolution occurred. However, improved roads are just one component of declining inland transport costs. In this paper, we specifically analyse how the forms of transport employed on roads developed in the absence of major institutional changes to the road system. We use Scania, a province located in southernmost Sweden, during the period 1750-1850 as a case study of the development of transport means during the transformation from a rural economy to an emerging industrial one. Our main finding is the independent role of individuals in lowering their own transport costs, as demonstrated by the large increase in the value of wagons relative to other commodities, and the increasing share of wagons equipped with iron instead of wooden wheels and with iron axles instead of wooden axles. This finding indicates that it was possible to lower transport costs in pre-industrial Europe without institutional change.

Published in

Agricultural History Review
2013, Volume: 61, pages: 63-82

    SLU Authors

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Economic History

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