Abstract

What is the role of transport improvements in globalization? We argue that the nineteenth century is the ideal testing ground: maritime freight rates fell on average by 50% while global trade increased 400% from 1870 to 1913. We estimate the first indices of bilateral freight rates and directly incorporate these into a standard gravity model. We also take the endogeneity of bilateral trade and freight rates seriously and propose an instrumental variables approach. The results are striking: we find no evidence that the maritime transport revolution was the primary driver of the late-nineteenth-century global trade boom.

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