Economic History of the United States

By Chester W. Wright | Go to book overview

PART IV
THE END OF THE WESTWARD MOVEMENT AND THE GROWTH OF CAPITALISTIC INDUSTRY

CHAPTER XXVII
THE PERIOD IN GENERAL AND THE WORLD BACKGROUND

Outstanding Tendencies. In Chap. XVI dealing with the general background of the preceding period certain outstanding tendencies affecting the economic development of the world during the nineteenth century were mentioned. The particular characteristics of these tendencies and the way in which they reacted upon the economic development of the latter portion of the century must now be noted.

Most fundamental and far-reaching in its effects among all these tendencies was the progress in science and its application in inventions. In all the sciences--natural, biological, and social--the advance in knowledge proceeded at a rate unparalleled in history; the acceptance of the scientific point of view spread rapidly and an ever increasing amount of wealth was made available for the advancement of science and for spreading a knowledge of its achievements over the world. Hitherto unknown or unused resources and forces of nature were made use of for supplying man's needs; and the more effective guidance in cooperating with nature, which science provided, enabled the world to supply its existing wants, to say nothing of many latent and undreamed-of wants, more completely than ever before. At the same time this advance in knowledge made possible more effective cooperation between men throughout most of the world in carrying on their economic activities. The spread of railroads, barely started by 1860, opened up vast continents; the development of the steamship made the oceans less formidable barriers than small seas had been before; the extension of the telegraph, the introduction of the cable, the telephone, the wireless, the radio, made distant communication a matter of minutes instead of months. Innumerable economic and other social institutions developed to further a more effective cooperation among men in the process of supplying their economic wants. Increasing wealth made possible greater savings and in many countries each genera-

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