Call for papers: Conference on Financing Transport Infrastructures (17th – early 19th centuries)

The financing of the transport infrastructures which would support the economic growth and the employment policy is nowadays a highly relevant question. Although these financial issues are not new, they remain relatively unexplored by the historians before the coming of the railways. From the second half of the 17th century, the logistical imperatives of the wars, the growth of exchanges and the urban planning policies lead to an increase of expenditure for the building and the repair of the thoroughfares (highways, waterways, streets and harbors). The financing means which are significantly different in the European countries reflect a rising policy concerning the Public Works and a relationship of the State with the societies and the territories.

The aim of this conference is to understand at different scales of analysis and in a comparative approach, how the States facing to strong budgetary constraints were able to finance their infrastructure networks. This reflection about raising and allocating funding sources induces a wider inquiry about the transport policy, its means and its levels of action.

Proposals on one or more of the following topics will be strongly encouraged:

  • the ways in which governments finance infrastructure investments. What were the political criteria and the social and economic conditions explaining the different financing choices (taxes, tolls, loans, compulsory labor…) and their change ?
  • the actors who were involved to pay, to loan, to guarantee…  Even if historically, the governments have played a predominant role in owning and operating infrastructure, the fiscal policy constraints have also encouraged government to seek private sector participation in the provision of infrastructure. So the study of the financial plans implies to scrutiny the boundaries between the public and the private spheres, but also the relations between the government and the local authorities, and between the institutional levels and private actors and even among private investors.
  • the assessment and the trends of building and upgrading investments over time
  • the accounting controls on spending and investment. A particular attention should be paid to the budget and financial management reforms.

Proposals for papers should include the title, the author’s name and affiliation, and a brief abstract (no more than 500 words) and can be sent to,, or by 1 November 2015

The languages of the conference are French and English
Deadline for the final papers : 31 May 2016

~Thanks to Asha W. Agrawal for this post

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