Argentina provides excellent ground for the study of competing transport technologies, but it awaits the laborer’s toil. Secondary sources are scarce, and available statistics are not always useful for an analysis of the automobile’s impact on country and city transport and on the economy. Therefore, it is encouraging to see this book. Yet, expect no rich bibliographical pastures.
The author’s framework of Anglo-American imperial rivalry is not convincing. When readers set it somewhat aside, they will find quite a lot of stimulating material. The assets of the automobile (cost, flexibility, and individuality), combined with excellent commercial techniques and organization, guaranteed success in the rich Argentina of the 1920s. The depression struck this sector hard, but its impact and the drop in agricultural output were probably worse for the Britannic railway companies. It is surprising that ports like Rosario and Santa Fe received a quarter of their outbound cargo (probably bulk) by truck in the late ’30s. It was certainly one of the results of a vast road-building program.
The competition for urban transport in Buenos Aires, together with the modernization of the city, is handled well. It provides useful information for comparative studies.
Further research will perhaps unveil what the roads meant for property values, farm output, and industrial location. It may tell us, as well, what the automobile did for mobility and for employment. Its complementary role, particularly in the country, also deserves some attention.
I should not forget to mention some noteworthy pages on tariffs, foreign exchange control, and the use of the two-tier currency market during the ’30s to limit nonessential imports. And, of course, Roca-Runciman is part of the scene.