Welsh coal and the informal empire in South America, 1850–1913

Steven Gray, Trevor Boyns

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    Coal was crucial to the growth of several South American states between 1850 and 1913, being used for their expanding railway networks, to generate power for their emerging industries, and by the steamships in which much of their overseas trade was conducted. Lacking indigenous sources of sufficiently high quality, Argentina and Brazil in particular came to rely heavily on Welsh coal for their energy needs. While playing a crucial role in the economic development of such countries, Welsh coal and its distribution network of coaling stations also helped in protecting the trade between Britain and South America, allowing the Royal Navy to have access to the most suitable coal for its purposes at distances varying from almost 4,000 to 10,000 miles from its point of origin. This paper explores various aspects of the development of this trade and argues that, in discussions of the development of the informal empire, the significance of (Welsh) coal should not be overlooked, as has tended to be the case in some modern works.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)53-77
    JournalAtlantic Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 8 Jan 2016


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