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Kanalbyggarna och staten: Offentliga vattenbyggnadsföretag i Sverige från medeltiden till 1810
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
1993 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The canal constructors and the state : Public watercourse construction enterprises in Sweden from the Middle Ages to 1810 (English)
Abstract [en]

The Canal issue was on the political agenda in Sweden from the Middle Ages until 1810. That year represents the starting point of the Göta Canal construction and a break in political and scientific canal discussions in Sweden. This dissertation is a contribution to the Swedish history of infrastructure and construction technology. The main issue is the role of the State in handling large scale water construction projects.

The major aims for this dissertation are:

- to demonstrate what factors made large scale public enterprises possible, or impossible, before the age of industrialization.

- to show how the enterprises for canal constructing were restructured into public companies.

This dissertation is written as a "collective biography", dealing with those small groups of people who were the bearers of specials skills or competences and had significant influence on the canal construction enterprises. The first major canal construction works in Sweden was carried out during the reign of Charles the IX.

There are some especially important factors which insure the successful completion of a canal project. One such factor is that the decision to construct the canal should be implemented forcefully. Another important factor, which became even more important in time, was the supply of venture capital. After Gothenburg had become a centre for trade, its merchants played an important part in the financing of canal construction enterprises. The construction of canals was in accordance with the merchants interest in more efficient transportation. Another group of canal financers were the owners of mines and foundries in areas around the big lakes in southern Sweden. Their interest in cheap and efficient transportations to facilitate export of iron and wood products was congruent with the merchants interest. However, the main financer of Swedish construction enterprises always was the State.

Among the factors disencouraging canal construction projects were frequent wars. These wars inhibited canal construction projects. When a war was at hand, all government disbursements of money for canals and other public works were immediately stopped.

Technology was a second factor that hampered the construction of canals; when new canal construction techniques were introduced, public investigory committees were often appointed to scrutinize planned canal works and works in progress. The investigation committees work could last for years, which meant, that works in progress were stopped, even closed down. The investigated innovations seldom showed anything useful for the future. Instead they often turned out to be temporary whims.

The changes of government from royal autocracy to parliamentary rule during the Age of Liberty enforced the tendency that canal projects could be cancelled or quickly transferred to financially weak private enterprises, which often meant that the canal projects were expelled. Canal construction enterprises in Sweden were allways dominated by a few individuals consituting a social network.

Concerning the question of restructuring canal construction projects into modern public enterprise; It has been indicated that the transformation of the canal enterprises into joint stock companies, with public guarantee and private share holders, was a sythesis of the traditional model for organizating the Kingdom of Sweden, and the private guild system. It is obvious that the modern Swedish mixed economy model, or just the Swedish model, characterized by consensus relations between free-enterprise and public authority has its roots in the hybrid of public and private entrepreneurship which characterized the canal construction enterprises.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköpings universitet , 1993. , 402 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 90
Keyword [en]
canal construction enterprises, canal history, canals, central government, civil engineering, history of technology, infrastructure development, political decision-making, public opinion, water construction technology
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-35367Local ID: 26413ISBN: 91-7871-073-1OAI: diva2:256215
Public defence
1993-05-07, Wallenbergssalen, Östergötlands Länsmuseum, Linköping, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-10 Created: 2009-10-10 Last updated: 2012-06-04Bibliographically approved

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