CfP PDW for BHC 2023

The Business History of Natural Resources

Business History Conference, Detroit, 16th March, 2023

In recent years, both business historians and economic historians have been reconsidering the significance of natural resources, and there has been a growing interest in examining the historical role of natural resource management and policy in shaping some of the key challenges and trends in the modern world. The economic history of natural resources lies at critical intersections of business, environmental, and political history, as well as providing key opportunities to critically examine histories of race, gender, labour, and imperialism. As our world becomes increasingly reliant on internationalized systems, utilizing business history as a framework through which to examine natural resources is a timely emerging area of historical research with powerful resonance for contemporary issues and strong interdisciplinary potential.

In collaboration with the 2023 Business History Conference and its theme of ‘Reinvention’, this workshop provides an opportunity to share and develop papers on topics relating to the business history of natural resources, broadly defined. The purpose of the workshop is to support the development of historical research on natural resources for publication in high-quality outlets, including The Routledge Handbook on the Economic History of Natural Resources. In addition, workshop participants will discuss how to address the common challenge of writing economic histories of natural resources for multiple audiences across historical, business, political science, and environmental science disciplines, including more explicitly presenting engagement with theoretical debates and demonstrating the necessity of reinvention for harnessing the potential of business history to interrogate emerging phenomena in our current, globalized natural resource industries.

Participants are expected to read all circulated papers. Please submit an extended abstract before January 20th, 2023 to the workshop organizers.

Organizers: Madeleine Dungy, Audrey Gerrard and Espen Storli, Department of Modern History and Society, NTNU.

For any questions about the workshop, or to submit an abstract, please send to:

FRESH meeting on Colonialism and natural resources

Hosted by the Unit for Economic History, Department of Economy and Society, Gothenburg University

In-person only

For more information, see


Thursday October 20

9:30 Welcome

9:45-10:45 Session 1

Christopher David Absell, Gothenburg University
“Breaking the ties that bind: colonial trade ties and export growth in the poor periphery, 1950-90”

Cristián Ducoing, Lund University
“How to avoid the effects of collapsing commodities? Lessons from history”

10:45-11:15 break

11:15-12:45 Session 2

Giovanni Costenaro, European University Institute
“Towards an “exploitation globale du globe” ? Italian and West-German business and the beginning of the European development policies towards Africa, 1955-1959.”

Gijs Dreijer, Leiden University
“Exploiting the (Natural) Resources of Others: The Case of Dutch Investors in the Scramble for Africa (1870s-1910s)”

Leo Dolan, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
“FIXING A FLAWED DIAMOND: What we can learn from a Portuguese Colonial diamond mine’s late evolution from coercive labour policies to far more inclusive practices.”

12.45-14:00 lunch

14:15-15:30 Keynote Professor Tirthankar Roy, London School of Economics

15:30-16:00 break

16:00-17:30 Session 3

Eleonor Marcussen, Linnaeus University
“Water and socio-ecological relations: infrastructure and natural resources in central and western India, c.1850-1870”

Timo Tapani Särkkä, University of Jyväskylä and Simon Mollan, University of York
“What the failed development of papyrus-based industry in colonial Sudan can tell us about Institutional support and entrepreneurialism in imperial-era international business”

Friday October 21

9:00 -10:00 Session 4

Magnus Neubert, Martin-Luther-University // Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies
“Schmalspurwachstum? The growth effects of narrow-gauge railways in Bosnia-Hercegovina under Habsburg colonialism”

Guilherme Lambais, University of Brasilia
“Welfare and Real Wages in Bahia, 1572–1920”

10:00 – 10:30 break

10:30- 11:30 Session 5

Clara Lea Dallaire-Fortier, Lund University
“Lives after Mine Closures: The Role of Regulatory Regimes in Canada, 1880-2020”

Audrey Gerrard, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
“Contract and Consent in Queensland Colonial Lawmaking: The Pacific Islander Employers’ Compensation Act and the Long Shadow of Slavery”

John Brolin, Lund University
“The ghost acres of capitalism: alleviating land constraints with fish, trade, and coal in pre-industrial Britain”

12:00-13:00 Closing: Professor Klas Rönnbäck, Gothenburg University