All the Gold in the World: Colonial Extraction, Geology, and Mining Statistics, c.1830-1890

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Abstract Summary
Large-scale exploitation of new gold ore reservoirs in Russia, California, and Australia from the 1830s onwards shifted the relative prices of silver and gold, disturbed monetary systems around world, and fanned interest both in retrospective statistics and prospective geology. This paper uses German philologist Adolph Soetbeer's publication Precious Metal Production and the Value Relation of Gold and Silver from the Discovery of America to the Present (1879) as an entry point into the entangled history of monetary policy, colonial extraction, disciplined geology, and "world" statistics of metal production. Like the early modern government officials and entrepreneurs that he used as his source for data, Soetbeer manipulated scales for visual impact (in illustrations) and for rhetorical persuasion (in discourse). Contrasts between long processes (metallogenesis, colonialism, state-building) and explosive events (discoveries, inventions, wars) structured the past and the future and harnessed long-term processes to force policy decisions in the present.
Abstract ID :
Submission Type
Organized Session
Abstract Topic
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Chronological Classification :
19th century
Self-Designated Keywords :
geology, statistics, ressources