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A Scarce Resource?: The Debate on Metals in Sweden 1870–1918
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Philosophy and History.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9558-4621
2016 (English)In: The Extractive Industries and Society, ISSN 2214-790X, E-ISSN 2214-7918, Vol. 3, no 3, p. 772-781Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The purpose of this article is to explore the historical origins and meanings of metals scarcity in industrial society by investigating which metals were regarded as scarce by Swedish industrial actors from 1870 until 1918 and why. An analysis of material from the Swedish engineering journal Teknisk Tidskrift shows that the actors perceived twenty metals to be scarce during this period. Seven different factors could be identified in the scarcity debate: geological scarcity, technical difficulties in extracting the metals, the lack of substitutes, price variations, limited transport infrastructure, domestic unavailability and legal regulations. The article shows that actors and industries experienced troublesome shortages of metals even before World War I. However, they did not regard it as a geopolitical problem until the eve of the war.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2016. Vol. 3, no 3, p. 772-781
Keyword [en]
Sweden, Metals, Industrialization, Social construction of scarcity
National Category
History of Technology
Research subject
History of Science, Technology and Environment
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-184854DOI: 10.1016/j.exis.2016.03.009ISI: 000384278000022Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-84961908042OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-184854DiVA: diva2:916986
Funder
Swedish Research Council
Note

QC 20161024

Available from: 2016-04-05 Created: 2016-04-05 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Specter of Scarcity: Experiencing and Coping with Metal Shortages, 1870-2015
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Specter of Scarcity: Experiencing and Coping with Metal Shortages, 1870-2015
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In spite of an ever-growing supply of metals, actors have long feared metal shortages. This thesis – departing from an understanding that metals scarcity is not an objective geological fact, but an experience, a fear of a shortage – explores why business and state actors have experienced metals as scarce and how they coped with scarcity from 1870 to 2015.

The underlying reasons for scarcity experiences originated in high prices, a lack of substitutes, domestic unavailability, limited infrastructure and increased demand. In the view of businesses and the state, a shortage of metals could hinder successful industrialization. Defining metals as scarce was a first step in their attempts to ensure access through exploration, recycling, substitution, and trade agreements.

This dissertation presents five case studies which provide insights into three selected aspects of metals scarcity that have been overlooked in previous studies. First, while small countries experienced and coped with metals scarcity in a similar way to large nations, they were more vulnerable because of their dependence on transnational flows controlled by larger countries. Yet if they remained neutral in international conflicts, they could enjoy other opportunities to import resources than their larger rivals. Second, industries experienced metals scarcity before World War I; with the onset of the Second Industrial Revolution, at the very latest, new technologies were often dependent on metals which had never before been used commercially – there were not yet any extraction systems in place. However, once these metals began to circulate, state actors became aware of the international traffic and began to classify certain metals as critical. Thirdly, technological change has affected – and been affected by – metals scarcity. If a metal was scarce, manufacturers were likely to embark on a different path to production. Inversely, sometimes new technologies were able to alleviate perceptions of scarcity.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2017. p. 106
Series
TRITA-HOT, ISSN 0349-2842 ; 2075
Keyword
scarcity, critical metals, Sweden, small countries, strategic metals, metal shortages, history of technology, experiences of scarcity, coping with shortages, technological trends, World War I, resource crisis, construction of resources.
National Category
History of Technology
Research subject
History of Science, Technology and Environment
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-219409 (URN)978-91-7729-610-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2018-01-19, F3, Lindstedtsvägen 26, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20171206

Available from: 2017-12-06 Created: 2017-12-05 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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