Landscapes of Technology Transfer : Swedish Ironmakers in India 1860–1864

by af Geijerstam, Jan

Abstract (Summary)
In the early 1860s three Swedes, Nils Wilhelm Mitander,Julius Ramsay and Gustaf Wittenström, were engaged by theBritish to build and run charcoal-based ironworks in India.These works, the Burwai Iron Works of the British Government inthe case of Mitander and the privately owned Kumaon Iron Worksin the case of Ramsay and Wittenström, were both to bebased on the most modern European technology. The projects werepioneering in Indian ironmaking. The ambitions were high andstakes big, but after only a few years the projects were closedand the Swedes returned home.Landscapes of Technology Transferpresents a detailedstudy of the Kumaon and Burwai Iron Works, from their firstconception to their final closure. The investigation isbasically empirical and a fundamental question is: Why were theworks never brought into full and continuous production?The ironworks projects should be considered as processes oftechnology transfer rather than fully fledged and completedtransfers. In spite of this lack of success, or maybe becauseof it, the history of the ironworks and the Swedes also forms afruitful case to put other questions of wide relevance. Itexposes workings and effects of colonialism and offers anexplanation of the late development of India's iron and steelindustry and analyses of the complex totality forming theprerequisites for a successful transfer of technology. The longtraditions of bloomery ironmaking in India and ismarginalisation is also discussed.Landscapes of Technology Transferis a comprehensiveempirical study. From a local and individual perspective ittraces lines of connection across boundaries of time andgeography. The historical landscapes of technology transfer aredescribed in their cultural, social, economic and politicaldimensions and the thesis underlines the importance of a closeacquaintance with local settings and conditions, where historyis manifested in a physical presence. The remains of theironworks and theirlocal landscapes in present-day India areused as a central source for writing their histories. There isalso a strong emphasis on the use of photographs and drawingsas sources.The outcome of the projects was the result of the interplaybetween the local and the global, between a diversity ofconcrete factors influencing the construction of the works andtheir running and their colonial character. The studyemphasises the importance of technological systems andnetworks, both on a micro and a macro level. On a local leveldemanding logistics, a sometimes adverse climate, theprocurement of charcoal and iron ore in sufficient quantitiesand the build up of knowledge of ironmaking posed serious butnot insurmountable difficulties. Most obstacles were overcomealready during the first few years of the 1860s, the period ofthe Swedes, but to put the works into full and continuousproduction would have needed perseverance and purposefulefforts to support and protect the iron production, at leastduring an initial period. In the end the position of India as acolonial dependency, subjected to the primacy of Britishinterests, set the limits of the projects.Key words:History of technology, industrial heritagestudies, industrial archaeology, technology transfer,diffusion, technological systems, landscapes of technology,iron and steel, charcoal iron, direct and indirect ironmaking,bloomeries, 19th century, industrial history,industrialisation, de-industrialisation, underdevelopment,colonialism, India, Sweden, Great Britain, global history,annales.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Kungliga Tekniska högskolan

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:history of technology industrial heritage studies archaeology transfer diffusion technological systems landscapes iron and steel charcoal direct indirect ironmaking bloomeries 19th century indu


Date of Publication:06/02/2004

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