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2023 | Book

The Gas Sector in Latin Europe’s Industrial History

Lighting and Heating the World

Editors: Ana Cardoso de Matos, Alexandre Fernandez, Antonio Jesús Pinto Tortosa

Publisher: Springer Nature Switzerland

Book Series : Frontiers in Economic History


About this book

This volume sheds light on the technical and institutional handicaps that the gas industry had to face since the early 19th century to consolidate its position in the energy market. It traces the history of gas energy use in a European context to understand the reasons for its crucial nature in the region. Going back to the start of gas production in England and France at the turn of the 18th century, the book has a specific focus on Latin Europe: Portugal, Spain, France, and Italy.
Topics discussed include, but are not limited to the evolution of gas technology and associations; capital, technical, and human transfer among countries; strategies carried out by gas companies to promote their activity; how gas companies adapted to changing markets, faced with the competition of electricity at the end of the 19th century, until late 20th century; and how war, especially the Second World War, affected gas supply in Latin Europe. Finally, the volume discusses the emerging use of natural gas by France and Italy after 1945, which meant a quantitative advantage compared to their neighbors in Latin Europe, Portugal and Spain, as well as a political advantage, in terms of energetic independence.
The book will appeal to scholars, students, and researchers of economic history, business history, as well as technological history, interested in a better understanding of the evolution of gas into a major energy source, a role that it has kept until today.

Table of Contents

Why Gas?
The first part of the introduction aims at explaining the relevance of the gas industry in the history of the industrial revolution. Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has awoken popular awareness on the World’s dependence on Russia’s gas supply. Therefore, it is required that experts in economic, industrial, and business history go back to identifying the moment when gas became a crucial energy source for Europe’s industrial take off, at the turn of the eighteenth century. Not only was gas relevant as an energy source to put the factories into motion, but it also made possible the take-off of other industrial sectors that depended on such energy source, for example, transportation and communications.
Ana Cardoso de Matos, Alexandre Fernandez, Antonio Jesús Pinto Tortosa
Why Latin Europe?
The volume will focus on the geographical framework that the authors have defined as Latin Europe, which includes Spain, Portugal, Italy, and France. The current chapter then will be devoted to explaining the reasons for the exceptionality of the aforementioned region. Among the factors that turn Southern Europe into a peculiar industrial region that demands the researcher’s attention, it is necessary to highlight: the similarities between the countries included in the region, for instance weather conditions, sunshine hours (linked to smaller gas demand), and coal scarcity; the weakness of the industrialisation and the urbanisation process in the four countries; the role played by France in the whole region, providing the human and financial capital required for starting gas production; a small popular gas consume, together with a similar chronology for the start of the gas industry, and for the exit of foreign investment; similar concession models; and finally the small relevance of municipal gas supplies.
Ana Cardoso de Matos, Alexandre Fernandez, Antonio Jesús Pinto Tortosa

Dawn and Consolidation of Latin Europe’s Industrialisation: The Evolution of Gas in the Nineteenth Century

The Internationalisation of the British Gas Industry in Latin Europe in the Nineteenth Century
This study addresses the strategy followed by different English entrepreneurs to develop the gas industry in several countries of Latin Europe during the nineteenth century. Specifically, it analyses different cases, such as the projects to implement the gas industry of Aaron Manby and Daniel Wilson in France, John Grafton and Edmund Goldsmith in Italy, and Edward Oliver Manby and William Partington Hurts in Spain, among others.
María Vázquez-Fariñas, Mariano Castro-Valdivia, Juan Manuel Matés-Barco
First Steps of Industrial Associationism in Latin Europe’s Gas Sector: The Société Française de L’industrie du Gaz
Industrial associationism became an urgent need in Latin Europe’s gas sector by the mid-1870s, when they founded the Société Technique de l’Industrie du Gaz (1874) in France. The aim of such associations was to join the efforts of engineers, technicians, and investors not only from the country where they created them, but also from all over the continent. Thus, their members would enjoy a proper atmosphere to share knowledge, explore the chances of capital investments, and establish national and international networks to promote the expansion of the gas sector along the region. Nevertheless, there is a precedent for the Société Technique that has been barely studied up to the present moment: the Société Française de l’Industrie du Gaz, constituted in 1870. The Société Française talks about a pro-association spirit in the sector that might go back to the previous decade. In this chapter we explore the context in which it was created, paying attention to the names, as well as the academic, economic, and national affiliation of its members. Doing so, we will determine the role that it played to trigger the birth of new associations in Latin Europe’s gas industry.
Israel David Medina Ruiz, Antonio Jesús Pinto Tortosa
Gas Lighting for the Crown: An Analysis of the Use of Gas Lighting in the Festivities to Commemorate the Bonaparte and Bourbon Dynasties in Paris (France) and Madrid (Spain)
The aim of this chapter is to explore and to compare the use of gas lighting into two capital cities, Paris (France) and Madrid (Spain), as part of the festivities to enhance two dynasties, the Bonaparte and Bourbon, respectively. In the case of Paris, we focus on the feast of Saint-Napoléon, on 15 August, adopted as a bank holiday by Napoleon III during the Second Empire. As for Madrid, we intend to analyse the use of gas lighting in the palaces and other representative buildings and city spaces on the occasion of the end of the Third Carlist War (1872–1876), and the triumphal entry of the young King Alfonso XII into the village on March 20, 1876. We will argue that this use of the gas lighting served not only to reinforce the political power, but also to link the monarchs to the urban prestige as well.
Antonio Rafael Fernández-Paradas, Nuria Rodríguez-Martín
Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Foreign Investment and Marketing in the Implementation of Gas Services in the Portuguese Cities of Lisbon and Porto During the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century
The nineteenth century cities were marked by the concern with public hygiene, the embellishment of urban space and the existence of leisure spaces that would respond to the new standards of health and well-being of the urban population. The attention given to public health and the environmental conditions existing in cities were directly linked to the development of medicine and hygienic ideas.
The new conditions of security and welfare that were required for the cities forced the introduction and modernisation of urban infrastructure, including water supply networks, sewage, gas and electricity. In Latin European countries, they were mostly implemented by private companies, both national and foreign, which had won the concession to operate them in tenders put out by the Councils. This text addresses the above-mentioned aspects in the gas service in the cities of Lisbon and Porto in the second half of the nineteenth century. To ensure that they had the necessary consumption to guarantee the viability of the business, companies developed a series of commercial strategies aimed at encouraging private consumption of gas, notably in households. These initiatives included advertisements, notably in newspapers, the display of gas appliances and the granting of payment facilities for the gas appliances.
Ana Cardoso de Matos, Diego Bussola, Maria da Luz Sampaio
The Role of the Technical Press in the Diffusion of Gas in Europe: The Case of Le Gaz Journal (1857–1886)
The gas industry emerged in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century. Since the middle of this century, scientific and technical advances were disseminated, among other ways, through treatises and periodicals. Journals evolved from having an initial generalist nature to a more specialised one. The gas industry was no exception to this trend and the first specialised gas journals appeared in the 1840s. These magazines acted as disseminators of the main advances in gas-related matters, but at the same time they constituted hubs for discussion and rapprochement between businessmen, engineers and consumers. In this study, we analyse the role played by the French magazine Le Gaz in the diffusion of gas in Europe between 1857 and 1886, a period that was directed by its founder, Émile Durand.
Mercedes Fernández-Paradas, José J. Luque-García

The Turning Point: Competition Between Gas and Electricity At the Turn of the Nineteenth Century

Gas Versus Electricity in Paris and Rome, from Late Nineteenth Century Until the Second World War
The arrival of electricity in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century posed several economic and technical problems for gas companies. In the case of Paris, competition was not solved as in other cities in the provinces. In Paris, the gas company was left alone to face the emerging electricity companies and did not decide to distribute electricity itself.
Instead, it has responded to electric competition in three ways. Firstly, it responded technically by choosing more intensive gas lighting systems. Second, it fought a legal battle by opposing changes to its concession agreement with the city. In doing so, it adopted the same strategy as many gas companies in the provinces, which systematically protested against the integration of electricity in the city to preserve their concession. This was necessary to maintain the confidence of the stock markets where their shares were valued.
Finally, it has developed promotional means to make the cost of gas cheaper and gain sufficient sales by increasing the number of subscribers. This article will present these three strategies in comparison with what was adopted in Rome, another capital city where gas was an important commodity.
Andrea Giuntini, Jean-Pierre Williot
The Gas Industry of the North of Spain, c. 1845–1950
This chapter focuses on the origins and development of the gas industry of the North of Spain (the Cantabrian regions of Asturias, Santander and the Basque Country) from c. 1845 to 1950, and attempts to quantify its relative importance in the Spanish gas industry as a whole in terms of companies, production, consumption and clients. By analysing the different gasworks of the region, the chapter also reviews the changes in technologies and markets during the period, the companies’ strategies to cope with the competition of electricity and to shocks such as World War I or the Spanish Civil War and the evolution of costs and prices.
Jesús M. Valdaliso, Patricia Suárez, Carlos Alvarado-García
Gas as a Goal: The Evolution of Gas Technology in Spain Until 1936
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, coal gas technology had been in use for more than 150 years. The principle was always the same: to obtain gas by distilling coal in retorts and extracting its volatile components. However, the need for a better yield led to modifications and technical improvements. These changes, which were developed in countries such as Great Britain, France or Germany over the following years were used in Spain to obtain gas in better conditions.
The objective of this chapter is to study how these improvements were developed and which Spanish gas factories introduced them from the beginning of the process until the Civil War (1936–1939). We will focus on highlighting the foreign contributions which represented an important technology transfer.
We will attempt to determine the weight of the factors that influenced this transfer, such as the origin of the firms, the penetration of foreign capital and, particularly, the role played by the foreign technicians in the introduction of the innovations. An analysis of projects and descriptive reports of certain factories will help us to corroborate the conclusions.
Francesc X. Barca-Salom, Joan Carles Alayo-Manubens
The Impact of World War II on Gas Production in Latin Europe
During World War II, the problems that the gas sector faced were the lack and the increased cost of coal, the raw material with which most of the gas was manufactured, but it also had difficulties to obtain materials and equipment to maintain the facilities. Likewise, the mobilisation of manpower to the frontlines, particularly skilled workers, who were difficult to replace. And, unquestionably, war operations and total war, which distorted the traffic of goods and people, as well as communications, which affected the capacity to make decisions. In addition, in the United Kingdom, France and Italy the facilities suffered attacks, and, occasionally, in the latter two countries the assets were on both sides as the war progressed. This chapter deals, for the first time, with the challenges faced by the gas industry in Latin Europe, specifically, in Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, but also in the United Kingdom, the leading European gas industry at that time. These all represent warring and neutral countries. To do this, the text will focus on the analysis of gas production, evaluating the aforementioned obstacles that this sector had to cope with.
Mercedes Fernández-Paradas, Alberte Martínez-López, Jesús Mirás Araujo
The Use of Computers in the Spanish Gas Industry: The First Comer: Catalana de Gas y Electricidad (1962–1969)
The first applications of information technology (IT), with modern concepts, in Spanish companies began in the early 1960s. The utilities sector, mainly gas and electricity companies, was one of the most important introducers of these advanced technologies and new methodologies in its business practice. The first equipment installed in a gas company in the country was the IBM 1401 of the Catalana de Gas y Electricidad, in Barcelona, in 1962, which is the case studied.
This chapter presents the motivations and surrounding circumstances that favored this advance. It analyzes the tasks of these machines, and how the company searched, selected, and trained the professionals who had to make them work. Describing what business problems new computing and data organization power could help simplify or solve.
A whole microcosm and new environments at that time, but fundamental, to understand the future evolution of information technologies applied to the business world.
Pere-A. Fàbregas
The Gas Sector in Latin Europe’s Industrial History
Ana Cardoso de Matos
Alexandre Fernandez
Antonio Jesús Pinto Tortosa
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