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RUSSIAN IRON PRODUCTION IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY

Malcolm R. Hill
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Vol. 12 (2006), pp. 118-167
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23787055
Page Count: 50
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RUSSIAN IRON PRODUCTION IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY
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Abstract

During the eighteenth century, iron became the basic material used for the manufacture of armaments, agricultural implements, and domestic hardware. At the dawn of the century, the major producers were Sweden, France, Belgium and Great Britain, but as the century progressed Russia replaced Sweden as the largest producer and leading supplier of bar iron to the growing British market. Russian prices were competitive and the quality was adequate for most applications. This paper consequently explores the capacities of the Russian iron industry to meet the demands of its home market in the eighteenth century, as well as the growing demand from importers especially Great Britain. It focuses on the technological capabilities of the industry, paying particular attention to processes and capacities within the context of available ores, fuels and sources of power. Where relevant, comparisons are made with production capacities and technologies in British and, to a lesser extent, Swedish ironworks. The paper concludes that Russian iron manufacturing in the eighteenth century was at a high technological level in the areas of charcoal-fuelled smelting and forging, with particular attention being paid to the harnessing of water power to achieve economies of scale. Although Russia did not immediately adopt the innovations in mineral fuel-based technologies (coke-fired smelting, steam engine power and coal-fired forging) implemented in Great Britain during the latter half of the century, the differences in the directions of innovation between the two countries can be explained in terms of the relative availabilities of the resources required for iron production, rather than any intrinsic averseness to innovation by the Russian iron industry.

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