How Railroads Changed American Government
12 Pages Posted: 9 Dec 2013 Last revised: 13 Nov 2015
Date Written: December 7, 2013
Review of: Wolmar, Christian (2013). The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America. New York, PublicAffairs. Anyone reading the scholarly literature on the "e-government revolution" might be tempted to think that technological change has never affected American government so profoundly as it does today. Christian Wolmar's The Great Railroad Revolution provides an invaluable corrective to this sort of thinking. The advent of the railroad was probably a more important technological shock, and Wolmar's book provides an unusual opportunity to examine how it affected the role and structure of American government. The current fashion is to emphasize the ways in which ideology and institutional inertia constrain the governmental response to such shocks. But Wolmar tells a different story. In the long run, The Great Railroad Revolution suggests, the governmental response to this innovation was pragmatic, hard-headed, and flexible.
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