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Flexibility and protectionism - Swedish trade in sugar during the early modern era

Chapter in book
Authors Klas Rönnbäck
Published in Christer Ahlberger & Pia Lundqvist (red.): Varans vägar och världar - Handel och konsumtion i Skandinavien ca 1600-1900
Pages 116-131
ISBN 91-88614-65-4
Publisher Historiska institutionen, Göteborg University
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 2007
Published at Department of Economic History
Pages 116-131
Language en
Keywords Mercantilism, Protectionism, Colonialism, Colonial trade
Subject categories Economic History

Abstract

Sugar was of the utmost importance for the development of a transatlantic trade during the early modern era. This chapter explores the impact of institutions and institutional changes of the colonial trade in sugar focusing on one country on the European semi-periphery, namely Sweden. Through protectionist policies, Swedish merchants were able to catch a significant share of the Baltic trade in colonial goods, despite the country having no colonies of its own. This in turn enabled a diversification of the sources of colonial goods. Trade in sugar became highly flexible during the period, rapidly changing in response to a changing international market. Protectionist policies also enabled the development of a domestic sugar manufacture, which flourished during the late 18th and early 19th century. When Swedish trade policy was liberalized around the 1850s, the domestic industry went through hard times from the international competition. The introduction of sugar beet would however have even more far-reaching consequences for the international trade in sugar. Swedish sugar imports collapsed by more than 98 per cent in less than ten years when domestic production of sugar beet had gotten off to a start at the end of the 19th century. The preliminary conclusions form the first output from the work on a thesis concerned with the trade in colonial goods of actors in the European semi-periphery. One future aim is to compare the colonial trade in sugar of Sweden and Denmark.

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