Mapping Vienna's Economic Geography: A Historical Microdata Analysis of Spatial Structure and Evolution (1880-1936).

In my dissertation project, I develop a new approach to researching Vienna's economic history by expanding the corpus of historical sources with individual-level business data from a city address book. The research questions focus on investigating the spatial distribution of businesses in the city and understanding how certain sectors and industries behaved during different phases of economic development, both before and after World War I. The collected data will be used to explore how the spatial distribution of firms changed between 1880 and 1936, and to develop explanations for any patterns of concentration, migration, or persistence of urban production.

To accomplish this, a unique dataset consisting of more than half a million registered firms is created. With the help of a Python script, a streamlined process is developed to transform the firm section of the address book into a usable database, creating an annual firm census of the city containing information such as company name, address, industry type, and business form. Once the firms' addresses are geocoded, distance-based methods are applied to measure the agglomeration of businesses. First attempts have been made with the spatial agglomeration index SPAG, which allows for comparison of changes in the density of urban manufacturing over time and across industries, and opens up discussion about industry-specific concentration phenomena, economic externalities, and the relocation of industry.

The study will make general economic changes and changes in the inner-city economic structure comprehensible on a micro level and enable a deeper understanding of the economic dynamics of the urban industry during industrialisation in Vienna.

Michael Hödl is University Assistant (Universitätsassistent, Prae Doc) at the Department of Economic and Social History at the University of Vienna.

Current research projects:

  • My PhD-project is about the location of the Viennese industry from 1880 to 1934. With the help of a city address book I construct a database where I can spatially trace businesses and investigate agglomeration effects and industrial districts. I developed automatic computer-assisted reading procedures and work with geodata processing software as well as with distance-based methods.
  • I currently work on a paper where I investigate the development of the GmbH in Vienna. I make use of the firm database developed in my PhD-project and look especially at the period of the inflation after the First World War and its impact on Viennas business landscape.
  • I currently work on a joint paper together with Mario Holzner (wiiw, Vienna) and Michael Huberman (University of Montreal) where we investigate the impact of Viennas social housing program on firm growth in the interwar period.