The Rhine has always been an important locational factor for entrepreneurial behaviour, since its navigable part between Mannheim and Rotterdam allowed cost-effective shipping of bulky and heavy goods that otherwise were hardly tradable over longer distances. Commerce and trade found great opportunities there. Industries close to the river were thus favoured, and particularly those areas that were endowed with appropriate resources (wood, soft water for bleaching, ore deposits, clay, etc.) became hotbeds of entrepreneurship in the modern period. Accordingly, one could find clusters and veritable entrepreneurial landscapes in the textiles industry of the Wupper valley and the Lower Rhine, in the ceramic industry of the Westerwald, and in the metal industry of the County of Mark and the Duchy of Berg, let alone the commercialized cities of the Rhine delta in the Low Countries. Those preindustrial and early industrial clusters not only were connected by trade via the Rhine, but the river also enabled the formation of a sophisticated division of labour, for example between yarn bleaching in the Wupper valley and yarn spinning in Dordrecht, and thus brought forth communication, the spread of innovations, and perhaps even the emergence of a kind of Rhenish entrepreneurial mentality. Beginning in the mid-19th century, the large-scale exploitation of resources near the Rhine, especially the coal deposits of the Ruhr and their technological preparation and processing, added new and much more complex entrepreneurial tasks in the various sectors (heavy industry, chemical industry, mechanical engineering, inland shipping and ports) that were inconceivable without the professionalization of entrepreneurship on a more scientific basis. Traditional entrepreneurship was forced to change when new groups joined in and family background and patronage became less important than qualifications. The Rhenish economy mastered this challenge brilliantly by mobilizing the appropriate talent for the new tasks. This result was favoured by a number of factors that had given the Rhine economy its vigour, like its transboundary structure, but also its high population density that facilitated the establishment and expansion of the necessary educational infrastructure via schools, technical schools, and universities. The old entrepreneurial landscape was thus transformed into a new one whose distinctive feature was its great openness, even transnationality. Neither the great wars nor the decline of the heavy industries that had formerly defined the area could seriously damage this regional pattern. Rather, the regional pattern was always able to reorganize itself into new forms. This capability for renewal and this resilience are by no means self-evident; rather, they can only be explained historically. This historical explanation is exactly the topic of the seventh international RHIN(e) conference that will take place from 21 till 23 September 2017 at the Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf.
The 7th RHIN(e) Conference focusses on the key role entrepreneurs played in the development of the Rhine economy. The conference will address the following questions: Why did the Rhine region become Europe’s industrial centre at the end of the 19th century, and what role did entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial spirit play? What role did pre-industrial institutions play in this respect? Did path dependence matter? Which role did entrepreneurs play in the technological innovations that have taken place in the course of previous centuries along the Rhine? Who were those people that shaped the organization, products, production processes, markets and raw material basis of the economic region between Rotterdam and Basel? Who were those entrepreneurs that got things done? These and other questions related to entrepreneurship and the Rhine will be addressed.
Right from the very first Rhine conference eight years ago, the organizers have aimed to build a transnational network of scholars interested in the history of the river Rhine. Initially consisting of scholars from countries along the Rhine and its delta, this transnational network has gradually expanded to comprise scholars from other parts of the world, including Japan, China and the US. The organizing committee has invited an international group of scholars to present their papers and others to discuss these. However, all those interested in participating in the discussion are encouraged to do so.
For more information please contact Ben Wubs (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ralf Banken (Ralf.Banken@t-online.de).
Thursday 21 September
14.30-16.00 Session 1: Innovative Port Barons
- Hilde Sennema (Rotterdam), Paul van Laar (Rotterdam), Who runs the port city? Entrepreneurs as innovation intermediaries in the Rotterdam governance system, 1870-1970
- Marten Boon (Trondheim), Terminals, tankers and traders – oil entrepreneurship in the Port of Rotterdam since the late 19th Century
- Comment: Michael Schneider (Düsseldorf)
- Dan Wadhwani (Sacramento), Reinventing Entrepreneurial History
Friday 22 September
9.00-10.30 Session 3: Entrepreneurship as a Resource: The Rhenish Case
- Ariette Dekkers (Amsterdam), Anton Kröller, “first mover” in the German transit port of Rotterdam
- Werner Plumpe (Frankfurt), Carl Duisberg. A Rhenish entrepreneur? (Frankfurt)
- Comment: Eva Roelevink (Bochum/Mainz)
11.00-13:00 Session 3 The River as a Resource: The Rhine as Locational Factor for the Chemical Industry
- Frederic Steinfeld (Frankfurt am Main), The Rhine’s relevance for Bayer’s strategic decisions in the 19th and early 20th century
- Carla Thiel (Frankfurt am Main), The Rhine as BASF’s gateway to the world
- Christian Marx (Trier), Between Scheldt, Rhine and Elbe. International site selection and business policy at Akzo and Bayer from the 1960s to the 1980s
- Comment: Ernst Homburg (Maastricht)
14.00-15.00 Presentation of a Frankfurt Research Project
- Ralf Banken (Frankfurt am Main), The Capitalist Gateway: Trade between Western German Provinces and the Netherlands, 1740-1806
15.00-19.00 Social Programme
Saturday 23. September
9.00-10.30 Session 4 The Bergisches Land: Amsterdam’s Industrious Hinterland
- Stefan Gorissen (Bielefeld), The Rhine ports and the sales strategies of merchants from the right-bank in the 17th and 18th centuries
- Anne Sophie Overkamp (Bayreuth), Elberfeld – Amsterdam – the world: How the merchant-manufacturer Abraham Frowein engaged in transatlantic trade
- Comment: Jan Willem Veluwenkamp (Groningen)
10.00-12.30 Session 5: Economic transitions: institutions and (proto-) industrialization in the Rhineland
- Mark Spaulding (Wilmington), Who Makes the Rules? Entrepreneurs and the Evolution of the Commercial Regime of the Rhine, 1650-1850"
- Michael Kopsidis (Halle), Agricultural growth during proto-industrialization and industrialization: Sharecropping in Western Westphalia and the Lower Rhineland, c. 1740-1860
- Comment: Magnus Ressel (Frankfurt)
12.30-13.00 General and Project Discussion
13.00-14.00 End of the conference