St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. General File Photograph Collection, Baker Library Historical Collections.

More than 240,000 miles of railroad track laid down in the United States from the mid-to-late 1800s connected vast regions of the country, transporting raw materials, goods, and people, and making possible an unparalleled level of commerce. The railroads, unprecedented in size and complexity, became the model on which modern business would be based. While few dispute the transformative nature of the industry, recent scholarship has compared railroads in Europe to those in the United States. These studies reveal how the relationship between the railroads and the state influenced the way railways developed. Other scholars have questioned the idea that American railroads were models of management and suggest they are better understood as sometimes inefficient and lumbering organizations that achieved scale only through massive subsidy. Railroads and the Transformation of Capitalism explores the continuing research in the history and role of railroads in creating not only the foundations of modern business, but also a system of modern capitalism that survives to this day.