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The west was primarily transformed by the transcontinental railroad. It not only made travel and shipment of goods from coast to coast feasible; it also allowed the development of towns and cities near railroad depots. It is unlikely that the west would have developed as quickly and naturally as it did without the addition of the railroad. The government's role in this was to provide land free of charge to the railroads for track rights of way. The government did not directly contribute financially; but by removing the cost of land from the overhead which railroad construction would otherwise entail, the development of the west was greatly enhanced.
Please note that much of agriculture in the West was becoming at least somewhat industrialized. So was mining. We often think of small farmers and prospectors, but after just a little while, much of the West was dominated by large, relatively industrialized and mechanized farms as well as by large industrial mines.
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Any investigation into this question needs to focus on the way that an agrarian society was transformed dramatically by the advent of industrialisation and machines that were much more efficient at harvesting and working large stretches of land, thereby doing away with the need for large numbers of labourers and small plots of land.
You could also look at how changes in communications impacted the development of the American West. The Pony Express was a short-lived but revolutionary idea for speeding up the transmission of information from one side of the continent to the other. It was replaced by the telegraph, which truly revolutionized communications. As more information became more easily available, increased numbers of people became aware of and attracted to the wide-open areas of the American West.
The impact of industrialization on the American west resulted in the following;
1. The spread of immigrants into the western lands.
2. The passage of the Morrill Land Grant in 1862 which provided for the sale of federal lands to fund agricultural colleges to speed up the pace of scientific agricultural development in order to industrialize that sector of the economy.
3. A series of broken treaties between the United States and the Native Americans as the west was settled by immgrants and homesteaders.
4. The cattle kingdom which turned cattle ranching into big business but eventually would take such a toll on the land it led to the great 'Dust Bowl' of the 1930's.
5. The creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission which regulated the railroads by prohibiting monopolistic practices and price fixing.
Charles Darwin developed the theory of natural selection. Businesses adhered to the philosophy of Social Darwinism to respond to critics of the business practices employed and the lack of government regulation during the Industrial Revolution. Define the theory of Social Darwinism and then advocate either for or against government regulation in the business sector.
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