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6). The mines were shallow; the techniques, simple, and the production, insignificant. In the late 1830s the “hidden” (deep) seams north of the Ruhr Valley were discovered. Its exploitation, although extremely profitable, required more capital, more sophisticated techniques (such as steam pumps, etc.) and greater freedom of enterprise. In the end, and not without major bureaucratic delays, it was mainly foreign companies (French, Belgian and British) that provided them. Starting in 1850, coal production increased rapidly, and with it, that of iron and steel, that of the chemical industry, and others based on coal (Figure 9.7). Even in 1840 the German steel industry had a primitive appearance. The first pudding furnace came into operation in 1824, but it was financed by foreign capital. Medieval forges were still in use in the 1840s. Coke smelting began in Silesia, but to speak of the development of western Germany is practically synonymous with development in the Ruhr area, and this did not come until the 1850s. In 1855 there were about twenty-five coke ovens in the Ruhr, and a similar number in Silesia; these and a few other scattered ones produced almost 50% of the German production of cast iron, although their proportion with the charcoal furnaces was still one in five. Steel production with the Bessemer system began in 1863 and soon after the Siemens-Martin process was adopted. But it was not until the introduction of the Gilchrist-Thomas process in 1881, which allowed the use of phosphoric iron ore from Lorraine, that German steel production experienced an impressive acceleration.
Figure 9.7 Ruhr industrial area. Reproduction is authorized based on material published in The Times Atlas of World History (1978, 1984).
Taking the period 1870-1913 as a whole, steel production increased at an average annual rate of more than 6%, but the fastest growth occurred after 1880. German steel production exceeded that of Great Britain in 1895 , and in 1914 it was already more than double that of this country. German industry was large not only in its total output, but also in its individual units of production. In the early years of the 20th century, the average production per company was almost double that of the British equivalent. German companies quickly adopted the strategy of vertical integration, acquiring their own coal and ore mines, coke plants, blast furnaces, foundries, rolling mills, construction and machine repair shops, etc.