Publication Date


Document Type

Working Paper


Professor John Hall

Journal of Economic Literature Classification Codes

N11, N41, N51

Key Words

American Civil War, Antebellum South, King Cotton, Primary Commodity Production, Winner’s Curse


This inquiry seeks to establish that the American South’s comparative advantage in primary commodity production can be identified as an explanatory variable in the outbreak of the American Civil War. In addition, this inquiry seeks to illustrate the positive historical correlation between a state’s reliance on primary commodity production and its propensity to generate extreme outcomes—namely, institutional inequality, conflict, and civil war. Furthermore, this inquiry seeks to demonstrate that civil wars can be primarily understood as a function of a rebelling force’s economic motivations and explores the concept of King Cotton, westward expansion, and the South’s ultimate secession from the Union as a function of the winner’s curse.

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