The making and breaking of an “international order” of mineral extraction in the long 19th century

Nya Fest Session 6: There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough: Ownership, redistribution, and extraction of natural resources, 1800-2000 organized by Kasper Hage Stjern


Andreas R.D. Sanders


Mineral extraction played a crucial part in the globalization drive following the Second Industrial Revolution. From the middle of the 19th century to the First World War, total extraction of non-ferrous metals increased more than ten times. At the same time, mineral production and trade became a much more globalized affair. From 1875 to 1913, British foreign direct investments in non-ferrous metal mining rose from just over £11 million to £240 million, with foreign direct investments in mining also emanating from other industrial nations. While Europe as a whole remained the largest consumer of minerals, by 1913 only 14% of copper and 4% of tin was mined in Europe.

This begs the question, how was this internationalization of the mineral industries created? What institutions – or lack thereof – underpinned and guarded this great liberalization of minerals? How ‘open access’ was this system? And how did these systems influence the decisions on how to regulate investment and trade? Taking a birds-eye view of over a hundred years of mining history, this paper and presentation will shed light on these questions, and outline some of the broader and contradictions which shaped the rise and fall of the global mineral industry in the long 19th century, both from the ‘centre’ and in the ‘periphery’. In addition, the paper will also as explain how the Scandinavian histories fit into this wider picture.


No PDF available.