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Copper in the Early Modern Period. A Comparative Study of Work and Everyday Life in Falun and Røros.

Alternative title: Kobber i tidlig modern tid

Awarded: NOK 9.1 mill.

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Project Period:

2015 - 2019


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This project examined developments at Scandinavia's two largest copper mines in the early modern period - Falun in Sweden and Røros in Norway. We investigated living standards and organizational changes, and found, inter alia, that living standards in Røros improved later than in Norway more generally; that both the Swedish and the Danish-Norwegian states were actively engaged in production, and, in particular in Norway, an initiator of organizational improvements. The quantities that were produced were estimated and the two mines' exports and foreign linkages identified and analyzed, quantitatively and qualitatively, where possible. The Danish production of copper wares in the vicinity of Copenhagen was integrated into the project. The export trade meant that Swedish and Norwegian gahr-copper and copper wares (the latter from Sweden and Denmark)became part of a European wide copper network, far larger and more dynamic than hitherto assumed. Gahr-copper and finished copper wares were typically sent to Amsterdam, and, from there to other European countries (such as Germany and Spain) and ports (such as Rouen) from where copper was regularly sent to Asia and America. In this way Scandinavian copper became a part of a world-wide copper network. Through that, directly or indirectly, it also became part of slave trade, conflicts and wars. We connected three local areas (Falun, Røros and the vicinity of Copenhagen) to the global trends of the time.

In the main, the foreseen outcomes have been achieved.

The aim of this project is to make a renewed analysis of Scandinavian copper production in the early-modern period, against the background of global developments in metallurgy. The rationale for this is the fact that most of the earlier studies are very old. Heckscher's path-breaking research in the field is almost 75 years old and the most thorough study of Norwegian copper production at Røros was published in the 1940s. The ambition here is to combine two recent trends in history writing to tell the story of Scandinavia's largest copper mines, that of global history and that of practice-oriented studies. The former tradition has, ever since its appearance some two decades ago been equated with "comparisons and connections", and this project builds upon both. The project begins with a comparison of the Falun mines in Sweden and the Norwegian mines at Røros. Connections are, however, seldom out of sight. We know that the two mines were linked to each other, but they also had contacts that stretched much further afield; on the one hand, Scandinavian copper was sold on a world market, and on the other hand, people and ideas also circulated globally. A central question is how Falun and Røros tackled the new circumstances that developed from the early 18th century when the world market for copper changed and a new production centre at Swansea in Wales rapidly developed? It is fair to say that global history is written from a macro perspective, but in recent years "communities" has been added to the "com & con" perspective. This development is to a large extent related to discussions about "practice", and about how concrete people did what they did, as well as to the recent resurgence of the tradition of "micro-history". This project will draw also on these related approaches. An important ambition is to link people (miners as well as mining administrators) in their practice and everyday life to historical change, connecting the local to global trends.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam