Fuelling the urban economy: a comparative study of energy in the Low Countries, 1600-1850

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Samenvatting

What was the role of energy in shaping modern economies and fuelling the transition to sustained economic growth? In the historiography on the industrial revolution, the transition to fossil energy carriers plays a central role. Despite recent efforts to gather new empirical evidence, long-term comparative studies on energy transitions and their economic impact before and during the first industrial revolution remain rare. As a contribution to this literature, this article presents new quantitative data on energy consumption from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries in the Low Countries. To explore differences in the chronology and impact of energy transitions, we compare the total levels of energy consumption, the energy mix, and the prices of fuels between two cities in the northern and southern Low Countries: Leiden and Ghent. This analysis enables us to explore more clearly which factors played a key role in the interaction between energy, economic growth, and industrialisation. The transition towards a cheap-energy economy in Holland was associated with economic growth, but not with mechanisation. On the other hand, the rapid mechanisation process in Ghent was associated not with a cheap-energy economy (relative to that of Leiden), but more specifically with a cheap-coal economy.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)221-256
Aantal pagina's36
TijdschriftEconomic History Review
Volume76
Nummer van het tijdschrift1
DOI's
StatusPublished - feb 2023

Bibliografische nota

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Astrid Kander, Ben Gales, and Bruno Blondé for feedback on earlier versions of this paper, as well as participants in seminars at the University of Antwerp (Centrum voor Stadsgeschiedenis), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes research group), and Lund University (Economic History) for their feedback. We wish to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers of this journal for their constructive criticism in working towards a better article. This research was made possible with the financial support of the Research Foundation Flanders (Fund for Scientific Research ‐ FWO Vlaanderen).

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Astrid Kander, Ben Gales, and Bruno Blondé for feedback on earlier versions of this paper, as well as participants in seminars at the University of Antwerp (Centrum voor Stadsgeschiedenis), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Historical Research into Urban Transformation Processes research group), and Lund University (Economic History) for their feedback. We wish to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers of this journal for their constructive criticism in working towards a better article. This research was made possible with the financial support of the Research Foundation Flanders (Fund for Scientific Research - FWO Vlaanderen).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Economic History Society.

Copyright:
Copyright 2023 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

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