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Following the Letter trail; mapping and analyzing economic development with historical postal data (MAIL)
Start date: Sep 1, 2011, End date: Aug 31, 2013 PROJECT  FINISHED 

"This project analyses the impact of organized information exchange on economic structure and growth. Focussing on a long-run, historical setting this is done on the basis of a new, extensive dataset on historical postal services.The first stage is the acquisition, digitalisation and compilation of a new dataset covering the spatial development of postal networks, the level of use by the public as well as financial characteristics. Sources are historical statistical publications as well as archival records of postal services. These new data will be used to answer three central questions.First, what were the determinants that led to the inclusion of towns and regions in the developing postal networks during the 17th,18th and early 19th century and did this inclusion have consequences for the long-term growth path of these locations ?Second, can the concept of market access explain the extent of local postal activity in the late 19th century, and what is the interaction between information flow and the economic geography of regional development ?Third, what goals did governments pursue in their control of the postal services and did these policies have an effect on general welfare and the growth of the economies in question.While the third question has an international perspective, the first two focus on a comparative analysis between Germany, Britain and the US.The project will apply a number of different empirical methods to answer these questions, in each case informed by the application of a particular economic framework. This implies a combination of modern economic models with economic history methods to analyze the central issue of the role and impact of postal services. The results will illustrate how the organized exchange of information influenced long-term growth paths, the spatial distribution of economic activity and the institutional development of public services"
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