Proposal preview

Global Copper: Mining, Smelting, Minting, and Manufacturing from the Baroque to the Modern

Early modern globalization is often conceived in terms of textiles (Indian cottons moving from East to West) or precious metals (silver moving from West to East). Non-precious metals are rarely considered in the same light. Yet copper, which has been traded over very long distances since prehistory, was a major component of the ‘first global age’. The Portuguese carried ingots from the mining districts of central Europe to India in the sixteenth century, and by the seventeenth century Japanese copper was being traded at Amsterdam, inaugurating a genuinely global market.

This session considers successive waves in the globalization of copper. The first, described above, was supported by an expansion of production in central Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan. The second, which began in the early eighteenth century, arose from the adoption of coal-fuelled smelting techniques in the British Isles. The Caribbean sugar sector and the transatlantic slave trade were major new markets that absorbed the increase in production. A third phase began in the 1830s when the ores themselves (rather than the smelted metal) became global commodities, with consignments being shipped to Britain from Australia, Cuba, Chile, and southern Africa.

This session considers how these waves of globalization were related to one another, guarding against teleological conceptions that assume a simple extension of geographical range or sequential technological advances. In part, the session reports upon new work that reveals the continuing vitality of Scandinavian mining districts through the eighteenth century and the durability of central European manufacturing zones. It will also reflect fresh research on the revolutionary changes in Britain, research that attends to markets and new applications rather than the conditions of supply. Our intention is to shift discussion away from the Eurasian axis that underpins most discussion of the Great Divergence and to trace patterns of global change that take in Latin America and Australasia as well as East Asia and Europe.

Organizer(s)

  • Chris Evans University of South Wales chris.evans3@southwales.ac.uk UK
  • Göran Rydén Uppsala University goran.ryden@ibf.uu.se Sweden
  • Kristin Ranestad Oslo University kristin.ranestad@iakh.uio.no Norway

Session members

  • Johan García Zaldúa, University of Kent-Universidade do Porto
  • Ryuto Shimada, University of Tokyo
  • Sven Olofsson, Uppsala University
  • Klaus Weber, Europa-Universität Viadrina
  • Manuel Llorca Jana, University of Santiago de Chile
  • Juan Domingo Navarette Montalvo, University of Santiago de Chile
  • Nuala Zahedieh, Edinburgh University
  • Jin Cao, Beijing University
  • Ragnhild Hutchison, Oslo University

Discussant(s)

  • Jan Lucassen International Institute of Social History lucasjan@xs4all.nl
  • Kristine Bruland Oslo University kristine.bruland@iakh.uio.no

Papers

Panel abstract

This session considers copper mining and smelting as a vector for successive waves of globalization since the late middle ages. The first wave, in the sixteenth century, was supported by an expansion of production in central Europe, Scandinavia, and Japan. The second, which began in the early eighteenth century, arose from the adoption of coal-fuelled smelting techniques in the British Isles. The Caribbean sugar sector and the transatlantic slave trade were major new markets that absorbed the increase in production. A third phase began in the 1830s when the ores themselves (rather than the smelted metal) became global commodities, with consignments being shipped to Britain from Australia, Cuba, Chile, and southern Africa.

1st half

The Last Copper Century: Southwest China and the Coin Economy (1705-1808)

Cao Jin

Over the course of its last millennium, the priority for imperial China’s parallel bimetallic monetary system shifted steadily from copper cash to silver bullion, a development that gained momentum with the influx of New World silver during the 16th century. This trend was altered when the Qing government enhanced copper production in its southwest thus inaugurating China’s last copper century around 1705, a phenomenon analysed in this study with a focus on those provinces, where the wealth of China’s copper economy was created: on Yunnan, where copper for the metropolitan mints in Beijing was mined under a relatively tight governmental control; and especially on Sichuan, which maintained China’s largest provincial mint and favored a system of more flexible cooperation between state and private structures. In these provinces, the interrelations between mining and minting can be observed most closely, the copper century lasted longer and showed a deeper impact, and problematic...

Over the course of its last millennium, the priority for imperial China’s parallel bimetallic monetary system shifted steadily from copper cash to silver bullion, a development that gained momentum with the influx of New World silver during the 16th century. This trend was altered when the Qing government enhanced copper production in its southwest thus inaugurating China’s last copper century around 1705, a phenomenon analysed in this study with a focus on those provinces, where the wealth of China’s copper economy was created: on Yunnan, where copper for the metropolitan mints in Beijing was mined under a relatively tight governmental control; and especially on Sichuan, which maintained China’s largest provincial mint and favored a system of more flexible cooperation between state and private structures. In these provinces, the interrelations between mining and minting can be observed most closely, the copper century lasted longer and showed a deeper impact, and problematic symptoms of its final crisis, like large-scale counterfeiting or intensive coin debasement, became most apparent. This research aims at enhancing and reassessing our understanding of Chinese mint metal mining and copper coin production in practice and theory. It shows the importance of the internal market in huge land empires like China but also -through its interrelation with silver in the bimetallic system- its deep involvement into the context of an increasingly integrated global economy.

Indigenous-Spanish copper production in colonial Mexico: origins, transformations, and global dynamics (1540-1700)

Johan García Zaldúa

During the entire colonial period (1521-1810) the region of Michoacán, western Mexico was the center of copper production of the New Spain and one of the most important loci of production in the whole Spanish empire. Copper from this region not only supplied the artillery foundries, mint houses, and workshops of the New Spain but given its high quality and low cost was often exported to Cuba, the Philippines, and Spain. However the technology for producing copper in colonial Mexico was the result of a process of hybridization produced by the encounter, interaction, and mutual adaptation between a pre-existing indigenous metallurgical tradition and the European metallurgical technology brought by the Spaniards. Although the technical features of this hybridization process are of much importance, no less important are the socio-cultural, economic, and political dimensions of it. Furthermore, the development of this hybrid technology was deeply influenced by external political and economic...

During the entire colonial period (1521-1810) the region of Michoacán, western Mexico was the center of copper production of the New Spain and one of the most important loci of production in the whole Spanish empire. Copper from this region not only supplied the artillery foundries, mint houses, and workshops of the New Spain but given its high quality and low cost was often exported to Cuba, the Philippines, and Spain. However the technology for producing copper in colonial Mexico was the result of a process of hybridization produced by the encounter, interaction, and mutual adaptation between a pre-existing indigenous metallurgical tradition and the European metallurgical technology brought by the Spaniards. Although the technical features of this hybridization process are of much importance, no less important are the socio-cultural, economic, and political dimensions of it. Furthermore, the development of this hybrid technology was deeply influenced by external political and economic factors such as the relationship between the Spanish crown, the copper producers in Hungary and the intermediaries in Antwerp as well as by the emergence of new key suppliers in the global arena such as Sweden, China and Japan. This paper will explore this process of socio-technical encounter and the development of the colonial copper industry in Mexico within the broader context of copper production and trade in the Spanish empire on a global scale with the aim to understand critical moments in the relationship among the indigenous communities of producers, the colonial state, and the Spanish entrepreneurs.

Competition in the Indian Sales Market for Copper between Dutch and English Companies during the Eighteenth Century

Ryuto Shimada

The paper analyzes the import trade in copper into South Asia by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the English East India Company (EIC) during the eighteenth century. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the VOC sold Japanese copper on a large scale in the Indian market to produce copper cash. It was a means of payment for the VOC to procure Indian cotton textiles, which were a key merchandize for the intra-Asian trade and the Euro-Asian trade of the VOC. On the other hand, the EIC began to export British copper to India in the 1730s. British copper imports into India took the position of top share in the 1760s in terms of volume. However, the British copper trade was not so profitable for the EIC, as the Indian market preferred Japanese copper to British one, because of the difference of the quality.

The paper analyzes the import trade in copper into South Asia by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the English East India Company (EIC) during the eighteenth century. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the VOC sold Japanese copper on a large scale in the Indian market to produce copper cash. It was a means of payment for the VOC to procure Indian cotton textiles, which were a key merchandize for the intra-Asian trade and the Euro-Asian trade of the VOC. On the other hand, the EIC began to export British copper to India in the 1730s. British copper imports into India took the position of top share in the 1760s in terms of volume. However, the British copper trade was not so profitable for the EIC, as the Indian market preferred Japanese copper to British one, because of the difference of the quality.

The role of Chile in the earliest globalization of copper, c.1700-1820s, well before the so-called first globalization of c.1870-1914

Juan Navarrete-Montalvo, Manuel Llorca-Jaña, Roberto Araya-Valenzuela

This paper seeks to place Chile's position within world copper networks between the 1700s and the 1820s. During this period the levels of production were low, if compared to the 1850s-1870s and during the twentieth century, due to both poor extraction and refining techniques, as well as to high inland transport costs. Yet, Chilean copper was consumed within Chile, in nearby markets such as Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, and also exported to Spain and other European outlets, as well as to Asia. And indeed, the main demand for Chilean copper was external, and it was development elsewhere (i.e. in Europe and Asia) that determined most of Chilean copper production before independence. After liberation from Spain, Chilean copper started to flow more freely to Asia, while the USA became also a key market. Now, not only smelted copper was exported, so were copper regulus and ores.

This paper seeks to place Chile's position within world copper networks between the 1700s and the 1820s. During this period the levels of production were low, if compared to the 1850s-1870s and during the twentieth century, due to both poor extraction and refining techniques, as well as to high inland transport costs. Yet, Chilean copper was consumed within Chile, in nearby markets such as Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina, and also exported to Spain and other European outlets, as well as to Asia. And indeed, the main demand for Chilean copper was external, and it was development elsewhere (i.e. in Europe and Asia) that determined most of Chilean copper production before independence. After liberation from Spain, Chilean copper started to flow more freely to Asia, while the USA became also a key market. Now, not only smelted copper was exported, so were copper regulus and ores.

2nd half

Scandinavian copper to global markets: Production and trade of ‘gar copper’ and copper-, brass and bronze goods in the eighteenth century

Ragnhild Hutchison, Sven Olofsson, Kristin Ranestad

In the seventeenth century, Falu copper mine in Sweden was the largest copper producer in Europa. In the early decades of the eighteenth century, production started to decline. Production at the much smaller Røros Copperworks in Norway, on the other hand – and the copper production in Norway more generally - increased from the 1730s. Both copper districts were competing with Mansfeldt district of Thuringia, Neusohl and Schmöllnitz in the Upper Hungarian district, the Eastern Alps, copper mines in Japan and China, and especially the ‘copperopolis’ of Swansea, Wales, which was gradually winning a position as the leading European provider of copper metal. This paper explores the markets for Scandinavian copper in the eighteenth century, a time when the global demand for copper increased, privileges still regulated trade patterns and industrialisation was in its early phase. The question is whether there were any markets for Scandinavian copper, which was pushed...

In the seventeenth century, Falu copper mine in Sweden was the largest copper producer in Europa. In the early decades of the eighteenth century, production started to decline. Production at the much smaller Røros Copperworks in Norway, on the other hand – and the copper production in Norway more generally - increased from the 1730s. Both copper districts were competing with Mansfeldt district of Thuringia, Neusohl and Schmöllnitz in the Upper Hungarian district, the Eastern Alps, copper mines in Japan and China, and especially the ‘copperopolis’ of Swansea, Wales, which was gradually winning a position as the leading European provider of copper metal. This paper explores the markets for Scandinavian copper in the eighteenth century, a time when the global demand for copper increased, privileges still regulated trade patterns and industrialisation was in its early phase. The question is whether there were any markets for Scandinavian copper, which was pushed to the outskirts of world copper production. We find that the market for both Swedish and Norwegian gar copper was largely European, and that the semi-finished and finished products that were made of this copper was used for a number of purposes in industries, households, in military and trade, and was, despite the decline, part of multifaceted and intricate global production and trade systems.

Eric Williams and William Forbes: copper, colonies and capital accumulation in the Industrial Revolution

Nuala Zahedieh

Eric Williams’s work placed the Caribbean centre stage in discussions of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and historians are increasingly persuaded by his intuition that the Atlantic trading system, underpinned by enslaved labour, played a major role. Early critics focused discussion on the profits of the slave trade but his thesis was broader, and more sophisticated, than they acknowledged. It left room for linkages of many kinds. The need now is to quantify some of these indirect, but significant, connections and the papers of William Forbes, coppersmith, are used to highlight how the demands of sugar cultivation, a particularly concentrated form of agro-industrial activity, stimulated the development of a supply chain which linked Cornish miners, Welsh smelters, colliers, Bristol mill workers, and London coppersmiths to slaves in the Caribbean. Market opportunities, which allowed Forbes to amass great wealth, also encouraged investment, innovation, and the accumulation of skills which placed Britain on its...

Eric Williams’s work placed the Caribbean centre stage in discussions of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and historians are increasingly persuaded by his intuition that the Atlantic trading system, underpinned by enslaved labour, played a major role. Early critics focused discussion on the profits of the slave trade but his thesis was broader, and more sophisticated, than they acknowledged. It left room for linkages of many kinds. The need now is to quantify some of these indirect, but significant, connections and the papers of William Forbes, coppersmith, are used to highlight how the demands of sugar cultivation, a particularly concentrated form of agro-industrial activity, stimulated the development of a supply chain which linked Cornish miners, Welsh smelters, colliers, Bristol mill workers, and London coppersmiths to slaves in the Caribbean. Market opportunities, which allowed Forbes to amass great wealth, also encouraged investment, innovation, and the accumulation of skills which placed Britain on its particular path to Industrial Revolution.

Sven Olofsson and Göran Rydén

Swedish Cameralism and Eighteenth-Century Copper Making

Hamburg in the Early Modern Copper Trade

Klaus Weber

This paper is based on patchy evidence from scholarly literature and from a few archival findings, which indicate that Hamburg was a major place in the 18th-century copper trade. It further suggests some patterns in the emergence of major entrepreneurs and investors in the copper industry. In its final section, it offers some direction for future research.

This paper is based on patchy evidence from scholarly literature and from a few archival findings, which indicate that Hamburg was a major place in the 18th-century copper trade. It further suggests some patterns in the emergence of major entrepreneurs and investors in the copper industry. In its final section, it offers some direction for future research.

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