The Foreign Trade of Iceland, 1870-1914: An Analysis of Trade Statistics and a Survey of Its Implications for the Icelandic Economy

Bjarnason, Halldor (2001) The Foreign Trade of Iceland, 1870-1914: An Analysis of Trade Statistics and a Survey of Its Implications for the Icelandic Economy. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

The Icelandic economy was transformed in the late 19th century onwards when economic resources were shifted from pastoral farming towards mechanised fishing, because this meant urbanisation, growth of new social classes, formation of new power relations, a positive turn in the number of population, and a rise in the level of technology. The principal aim of the present research is to examine the general relevance of foreign trade for the start of the economic transformation and for the transformatory process until 1914. A supplementary aim is to generalise the findings by looking into the Icelandic experience in international context. The research is conducted through a sequence of three main steps. First, shifts that occurred in foreign trade are identified, and since foreign trade could affect the economy through the trade flow and the institutional framework of trade, both aspects are examined. The trade flow is analysed with a detailed investigation of trade statistics, and the economic context of exports and imports is outlined. The institutional framework is analysed as of 1870 and subsequent major shifts described, mainly with the use of secondary sources. The second step is meant to analyse systematically which of the shifts observed were relevant and important for the economic transformation. This examination is based on one hand on existing literature and the historical evidence produced here, and on the other hand on two analytical frameworks that I use in a synthesised way to explore the economic implications of the shifts observed. One framework is A.O. Hirschman's linkages approach and the other is an economic determinants model which is informed by the staples theory. The final step is a discussion about Iceland's economic performance in international comparison, including a sketch of the interplay between external elements and internal elements for economic stasis and change in the case of Iceland. The findings show that significant shifts occurred in Iceland's foreign trade in the research period, both in the trade flows and the institutional framework of trade. Furthermore, their economic implications were such that they were in fact all-important for a reorganisation of the utilisation of economic resources and for the transformation of the economy. The findings in turn indicate that the causes of the transformation have partly been overlooked, that its nature has been oversimplified, and that its timing differs from that in the literature. Furthermore, the findings suggest that the cumulative impact of the shifts and their long-term historical relevance was so profound and pervasive that the term modernisation is apt. In international comparison, Iceland appears to have gained very much from foreign trade, and it is maintained that institutional elements in Iceland's external relations affected the economy's factor markets in such a way as to uphold economic stasis while entrance of 'outsiders' in foreign trade was decisive in breaking it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: J Forbes Munro
Keywords: Economic history, Scandinavian studies, International relations
Date of Award: 2001
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2001-75791
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 18:10
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 18:10
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/75791

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