A comparative spatial history combining historical narrative, geographical thinking, and spatial analysis of historical data offers new perspectives on railway expansion and its effects in France and Great Britain during the long nineteenth century. Accessible rail transport in the rural regions of both countries opened new economic opportunities in agriculture, extractive industries, and service trades, helping to revitalize rural communities and decrease their rates of out-migration. In France, long-standing economic disparities between the developed north and the less-productive south gradually reduced. These conclusions are based, in part, on the use of historical geographical information systems (hgis) and spatial statistics, illustrating a component of spatial history.

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