Aluminum Ore: The Political Economy of the Global Bauxite Industry

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As the key component in aluminum production, bauxite became one of the most important minerals of the last one hundred years. But its effects on people and economies varied broadly -- for some it meant jobs, progress, or a political advantage over rival nations but for many others, it meant exploitation, pollution, or the destruction of a way of life. Aluminum Ore explores the often overlooked history of bauxite in the twentieth century, and in doing so examines the forces that shaped the time, from the mineral's strategic development in the First World War and throughout the Cold War, to its role in the globalization of markets, as companies from the northern hemisphere vied for the resources of the south. In this wide-ranging collection, scholars from around the world consider multiple international perspectives on this history -- from Guinea to Nazi Germany to Jamaica -- all while examining the central place of one commodity in a time of change.
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About the author

Robin S. Gendron is an associate professor in the Department of History at Nipissing University. Mats Ingulstad is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of History and Classical Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Espen Storli is an associate professor in the Department of History and Classical Studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
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Additional Information

UBC Press
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Published on
Sep 12, 2013
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Business & Economics / Industries / General
Political Science / Political Economy
Technology & Engineering / Mining
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For most of the twentieth century tin was fundamental for both warfare and welfare. The importance of tin is most powerfully represented by the tin can - an invention which created a revolution in food preservation and helped feed both the armies of the great powers and the masses of the new urban society. The trouble with tin was that economically viable deposits of the metal could only be found in a few regions of the world, predominantly in the southern hemisphere, while the main centers of consumption were in the industrialized north. The tin trade was therefore a highly politically charged economy in which states and private enterprise competed and cooperated to assert control over deposits, smelters and markets.

Tin provides a particularly telling illustration of how the interactions of business and governments shape the evolution of the global economic trade; the tin industry has experienced extensive state intervention during times of war, encompasses intense competition and cartelization, and has seen industry centers both thrive and fail in the wake of decolonization. The history of the international tin industry reveals the complex interactions and interdependencies between local actors and international networks, decolonization and globalization, as well as government foreign policies and entrepreneurial tactics. By highlighting the global struggles for control and the constantly shifting economic, geographical and political constellations within one specific industry, this collection of essays brings the state back into business history, and the firm into the history of international relations.

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