Port Barons and Ruhr Tycoons. The Origins of Economic Interdependency Between Rotterdam and the Ruhr, 1870-1914



This paper looks at the origins of the interdependent economic relationship between Rotterdam and the Ruhr that emerged between 1870 and 1914. This relationship included the exchange of bulk cargo and the mechanisms used by the actors involved to coordinate the traffic flows smoothly by means of the Rhine and the railways. The economic relationship resulted in the growth of the Ruhr district into the largest industrial zone of the continent, while Rotterdam developed into the most important bulk cargo port of the continent. These developments have mostly been studied in isolation of each other, as parts of the German and Dutch national economic histories respectively. By focusing at the actors within the most important industrial sectors in the Ruhr at the time: coal mining and the iron and steel industry, the paper departs from a truly transnational perspective. The paper claims on the one hand that the Ruhr, and hence Germany as a whole, was much more dependent on foreign markets than has been assumed so far, while on the other hand it argues that Rotterdam, despite the Rhine, has not always been the most appropriate seaport for the Ruhr. The paper shows to what extent it were port barons and Ruhr tycoons, besides national governments and port authorities, that shaped the Rotterdam-Ruhr relationship between 1870 and 1914. The paper reflects the main conclusions of the author's PhD thesis

The Business History Seminar is organised by the Business History Centre and has been made possible by financial support from the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM) and the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication