Coal and Steel in Western Europe; the Influence of Resources and Techniques on Production

Coal and Steel in Western Europe; the Influence of Resources and Techniques on Production

Coal and Steel in Western Europe; the Influence of Resources and Techniques on Production

Coal and Steel in Western Europe; the Influence of Resources and Techniques on Production

Excerpt

From the beginnings of the modern process of industrial change, coal and iron have moved ever closer together, like two leading and opposite characters in a play, until they have come to dominate the complex history of the European economy. Western Europe's industrial growth has been based, to be sure, also on a rich and diversified agriculture and an industrious and skilled population. Legal institutions and accepted ways of thought and behaviour have held the whole vital process as in a frame and given it breath and strength. Still it seems certain, under the technologies which developed in the nineteenth century, that continental Europe could in no way have rivalled the industrial development of Great Britain if it had not possessed similar deposits of coal and iron. It is little wonder that in the present day the efforts to intensify and rationalize Western European economic growth have centred in the European Coal and Steel Community--the permanent organization growing out of the celebrated Schuman Plan.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the fabrication of iron and the mining of coal were carried on over much of Western and Central Europe as, indeed, they had been for centuries. Iron was something of a luxury and steel was rare. The smelting and refining of iron was a slow and laborious process; its transportation was tedious and difficult, and its price, when at last it reached the market, was so high that it was used sparingly.

Coal was even rarer in the eighteenth century. It was won from shallow pits with imperfect tools. More bulky than iron, it was transported over the bad roads with even greater difficulty. In fact, coal was carried only very short distances from the pits unless river or sea transport was possible.

The location of the coal industry was without influence on that of the iron. Geographically considered, they formed two separate and distinct patterns on the land, neither affecting in . . .

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