R EVIEWS EDITED BY ROBERT S. COX AND R AC H E L K . O N U F Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth: Coal, Politics, and Economy in Antebellum America. By Sean Patrick Adams. (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004. Pp. xiv, 305. Cloth, $45.00.) Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth is a detailed comparative study of the impact that state-level policies had upon coal production in two of America's coal-richest regions, Virginia and Pennsylvania, from the 1790s through the early 1870s. Some early experts thought that Virginia, where colliers had already begun to tap the ample Richmond bituminous basin, was best situated to become the young nation's leading coalproducing state. But by 1860 Pennsylvanians were raising seventy-eight percent of all U.S. coal, more than thirty times Virginia's production. ``No observers of the early nineteenth century,'' Adams argues, would have predicted this (3). Adams employs political economy to explain why Pennsylvania's coal producers so thoroughly outdistanced Virginia's. He holds that no geological, hydrographical, or accidental geographical differences between the states mattered nearly as much as the divergent ``policy regimes'' that the two state legislatures created. ``Politics, rather than nature, shaped the evolution of America's mineral fuel economy'' (6).
Journal of the Early Republic – University of Pennsylvania Press