B – Economy, trade, and finances

Mining and its commodities as wheels of the Early Modern global economy

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 14:00 – 16:00

    Sunday, 28 June - 9:00 – 11:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    B – Economy, trade, and finances
Convenor
  • Klemens Kaps (Johannes Kepler University Linz)
  • Miroslav Lacko (University of Jena)
Chair
  • Miroslav Lacko (University of Jena)
  • Klemens Kaps (Johannes Kepler University Linz)
Commentator
  • Renate Pieper (University of Graz)
  • Philipp Rössner (University of Manchester)
Panelists
  • Sven Olofsson (Mid Sweden University)
  • Kristin Ranestad (Lund University)
  • Göran Rydén (Uppsala University)
  • Miroslav Lacko (University of Jena)
  • Sergio Serrano Hernández (Charles III University of Madrid)
  • Peter Markhgott-Sanabria (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
  • Klemens Kaps (Johannes Kepler University Linz)

Papers

  • Sven Olofsson
    Swedish copper in the eighteenth century Atlantic trade system

    Swedish copper in the eighteenth century Atlantic trade system

    The expansion of the Atlantic economy during the eighteenth century increased the demand for copper among the leading colonial powers which had repercussions on the copper processing in several places around Europe. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the role Swedish copper and brass played in the European Atlantic economy. The question is to what extent was the Swedish copper production dedicated for the Atlantic market, which copper products were exported, when did the export take place and why? Swedish trading statistics available from 1738 show a slow but volatile increase in the copper and brass trade. France was the main importing region, albeit in competition with Lübeck, Amsterdam and Dantzig from time to time, as well as occasional deliveries to, in addition, sixty destinations, including Spain, Portugal and England. The French predominance raises questions about the mechanisms behind the international copper trade in the 18th century, especially in light of the worldwide competition between England and France in all kinds of trade, where England had an abundance of copper, in contrast to France, which was dependent on imports of both copper and brass. There are many indications that the increasing demand in the Atlantic economy also affected the other European markets for different copper products. The Swedish export gives a thorough description of the copper commodity chains, showing how much copper and brass metal and what types of goods that were exported annually from Stockholm to different destinations around Europe.
  • Kristin Ranestad
    Göran Rydén
    Scandinavian Metals in the Asian Century (1730-1755)

    Scandinavian Metals in the Asian Century (1730-1755)

    Research on early modern global trade has developed in recent decades, and we now know more about the slave trade and the trade in the colonial goods. At the same time, we know significantly less about other aspects. One neglected field is how Europeans paid for the goods they received. The silver trade to Asia is well-known, but we need to know more about other goods shipped from Europe. There has been a resurgent research about the trade to Africa, but there is still much to do. Another overlocked aspect is the connection between the different segments of the early modern global trade. Indian textiles is crucial in this, imported to Europe but re-exported to other parts of the world. Another neglected aspect of recent global history is the focus on the major powers, with few studies dealing with regions outside Britain, France, the Dutch, Spain and Portugal. The field has to expand to include other regions as well, such as Central Europe and Scandinavia. The aim of this paper is to take part in two different, but also related, discussions about the early modern global trade from a Scandinavian viewpoint focusing on the period between the early 1730s and mid-1750s. We use sources from the Danish Asia Company and the Danish Caribbean and Guinea Company. First, we want to contribute to the discussion on how Europeans paid for their imports of colonial goods, as we aim to analyse cargoes shipped out of Europe. Second, we want to highlight the connections between Asian trade and Atlantic shipping. The crucial connection is the one linking India to West Africa.
  • Miroslav Lacko
    Habsburg Monarchy as a Global Producer of Copper, Silver and Mercury in the second half of the Eighteenth Century

    Habsburg Monarchy as a Global Producer of Copper, Silver and Mercury in the second half of the Eighteenth Century

    The paper is focused on a production of three dominant mining commodities – copper, silver and mercury, which were subjects of the state-controlled trade in the Habsburg Monarchy. Active state enterprise was enforced in the Habsburg Monarchy as a fiscal-military state in the field of mining, metallurgy and trade for all important raw materials such as precious metals, copper, quicksilver, iron and others. This occurred due to the necessity of higher state revenues to meet military needs and as a result of a cameralistic policy to establish the state’s supremacy in the economy of the Empire as legitimate. This paper should represent a first attempt at the quantification of the aforementioned mining commodities that played a key role in the structure of early-modern state finance in the Habsburg Empire. In the second half of the eighteenth century, especially the copper and silver production reached a global size and its maximum level of the whole early-modern period primarily in the Hungarian and Austrian lands. Copper production and processing was concentrated in the Upper Hungarian mining district and in the Banat (Oraviţa), the largest mercury mines were situated in Idrija and the most important silver production had been realized mainly in the Lower Hungarian mining district (Banská Štiavnica) and in the Transylvania. The quantitative analysis based on a primary archival research will be an important contribution to the identification of global trends in the early-modern production of mining goods.
  • Sergio Serrano Hernández
    Producing Gold and Silver to Globalize the Economy during the early-modern era. The role of San Luis Potosi in the first mundialization

    Producing Gold and Silver to Globalize the Economy during the early-modern era. The role of San Luis Potosi in the first mundialization

    This paper presents evidence from archival sources that allow the reconstruction of the commercial networks that permitted the continuous transit of silver and gold from northern New Spain to Europe and Asia. In return, these networks obtained various consumer goods -fabrics, spices, mercury- that were then introduced in the Spanish American markets. Using an approach provided by Social Network Analysis (S.N.A.), the paper presents the study of three commercial networks based in Mexico, Manila and Seville-Amsterdam. The essay underlines the role played by the merchants to mobilize the precious metals and accelerate the exchanges. This optic contributes to the construction of a polycentric view within the framework of Global History by assessing the paper played by the American and Asiatic possessions of the Hispanic Empire in the development of the early-modern world, specially under the “Union de Coronas” (1580-1640), which saw the unification of the Castilian and Portuguese Crown. The second objective is to contribute to the debate about the impact of Asiatic goods on consumption during the early-modern era, as historiography – since Hamilton (1934) – has traditionally focused on the impact of Spanish American silver and gold imports on the European economy, but academics have yet to explain the impact of the Asiatic and American goods that were exported to the Old Continent.
  • Peter Markhgott-Sanabria
    Austria, China, and the American Demand for Mercury, 1650-1700

    Austria, China, and the American Demand for Mercury, 1650-1700

    This paper studies the plans devised by the Spanish administration in the second half of the 17th century, to find new providers of mercury for the Mexican silver mines. With the availability of mercury generally being the limiting factor of Mexican silver production, Spanish authorities were eager to find additional supplies to complement domestic production in Almadén and Huancavelica. The mercury shipments from Austria in the late 16th and early 17th century were the result of such attempts, even though they had little impact. In the second half of the 17th century, China became a possibly alternative source for mercury. Even though rumors of the existence of Chinese mercury had been part of Spanish administrative correspondence for a while, in the late 17th century, these rumors appeared to prove true, as king Charles II. ordered to acquire a sample of Chinese mercury and assess its price and quality in comparison to that of Austrian mercury. This paper will explore how, as a consequence of an ever-increasing globalization of trade in the 17th century, European producers of mining products now had to enter into direct competition with Asian producers. While at the beginning of the 17th century, Austria was Spain’s only option as a trading partner for mercury, at the end of the century, the ability to shift its attention to the west not only kindled hopes for more and cheaper mercury for the Mexican mines, but also changed the Spanish negotiators’ bargaining position.
  • Klemens Kaps
    Three Key Metals for a colonial Empire on its apogee: Steel, Copper and Mercury exports from the Habsburg Monarchy to Spain in the late 18th Century

    Three Key Metals for a colonial Empire on its apogee: Steel, Copper and Mercury exports from the Habsburg Monarchy to Spain in the late 18th Century

    The Habsburg Monarchy has been since long considered to be at best of marginal importance as a trading partner for the Spanish Empire in the early-modern age. While this notion has become questionable due to research of the last years (Pieper 2005, 2010; Pieper/Lesiak 2007; Kaps 2015, 2016), the mining sector is alongside with textile production one of those branches of the early-modern economy where these doubts are the most justified. Already since the 16th century mercury belonged to one of the most-desired metals that Spain sought to import destining it to silver-production in Peru, and later also Mexico (Crailsheim/Wiedenbauer 2005). In later years, also copper and steel joined this export boom (Pieper 2010). Still, there is only little knowledge about the precise commodity flows and their impact in local production and consumption structures. This paper presents results for the second half of the 18th century, when Habsburg-governed Central European regions such as Inner Austria, Upper Hungary and Carniola delivered these metals to the Spanish Empire, mainly as a key part of the colonial economy and the imperial system it sustained. Thus, the paper reconstructs the commodity flows and their trade organization as well as the impact in consumption overseas as well as in production in Central Europe these exchanges had.

Abstract

Mining has inspired new interest in historical scholarship for the last years. While mining has since long been considered one of the key sectors of early-modern economies, the global turn has pushed it somewhat aside – be it for the traditional strong focus in American colonization by the Iberian Empires, or for the hype of textile production and consumption as one of the precursors for an emerging global consumer culture. The panel builds on this renewed interest in research and focuses specific mining products as key elements of the global economy in the early-modern age. Out of a vast range of mining products, the papers focus mainly on metals – from copper over mercury to gold and silver. In contrast to older approaches, this panel, however, gathers a vast range of theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches in order to address “global metals” in a comparative and entangled perspective. Thus, it will be addressed if there emerged a global market for much-searched products such as copper and mercury, and how this led to new competition between states and political measures of mercantilist inspiration as reaction. Also, commodity chains can be traced back, albeit sometimes indirectly, as mercury was a necessary product in order to extract silver in the Americas, whereas copper contributed to make these transport possible as Spanish warships were stuffed with copper plates in order to be protected against shipworms. Even more, copper formed an important part of sugar production and thus of plantation economy in the Caribbean and Southern America. Furthermore, it will be explored to what degree the circulation of metal products was conditioned by local and regional production structures and labour relations. The spatial focus is wide, although most case studies focus on European and American regions and their interrelations between the 16th and the early 19th century.