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.


  • Chris Evans, University of South Wales,, UK
  • Göran Rydén, Uppsala University,, Sweden
  • Kristin Ranestad, Oslo University,, 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,

Proposed discussant(s)

  • Jan Lucassen, International Institute of Social History,
  • Pat Hudson, Cardiff University,


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