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The Danish Agricultural Revolution in an Energy Perspective: A Case of Development with Few Domestic Energy Sources

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Is a lack of domestic energy resources necessarily a limiting factor to growth, as suggested for example by the work of Robert C. Allen? We examine the case of Denmark - a country which historically had next to no domestic energy resources - for which we present new historical energy accounts for the years 1800-2011. Focusing on the period of the first Industrial Revolution, we demonstrate that Denmark’s take off at the end of the nineteenth century was in fact relatively energy dependent. We relate this to her well-known agricultural transformation and development through the dairy industry. The Danish cooperative creameries, which spread throughout the country over the last two decades of the nineteenth century, were dependent on coal – a point which has not been stressed before in the literature. Denmark had next to no domestic coal deposits, but we demonstrate that her geography allowed cheap availability throughout the country through imports. Thus, Denmark might be seen as the exception that proves the rule: although modern energy forms are important for growth, domestic energy resources are not necessary, as long as it is possible to import them cheaply from elsewhere.

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  • Henriques, Sofia Teives & Sharp, Paul, 2014. "The Danish Agricultural Revolution in an Energy Perspective: A Case of Development with Few Domestic Energy Sources," Discussion Papers on Economics 9/2014, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:sdueko:2014_009
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    1. Sofia Teives Henriques & Paul Sharp, 2021. "Without coal in the age of steam and dams in the age of electricity: an explanation for the failure of Portugal to industrialize before the Second World War," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(1), pages 85-105.
    2. Markus Lampe & Paul Sharp, 2015. "Just add milk: a productivity analysis of the revolutionary changes in nineteenth-century Danish dairying," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(4), pages 1132-1153, November.
    3. Rubio-Varas, Mar & Muñoz-Delgado, Beatriz, 2017. "200 years diversifying the energy mix? Diversification paths of the energy baskets of European early comers vs. latecomers," Working Papers in Economic History 2017/01, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (Spain), Department of Economic Analysis (Economic Theory and Economic History).
    4. Sofia Teives Henriques & Paul Sharp & Xanthi Tsoukli & Christian Vedel, 2021. "Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability: Danish Butter Factories in the Face of Coal Shortages," Working Papers 0220, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    5. Kander, Astrid & Warde, Paul & Teives Henriques, Sofia & Nielsen, Hana & Kulionis, Viktoras & Hagen, Sven, 2017. "International Trade and Energy Intensity During European Industrialization, 1870–1935," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 139(C), pages 33-44.
    6. Henriques, Sofia Teives & Borowiecki, Karol Jan, 2014. "The Drivers of Long-run CO2 Emissions: A Global Perspective since 1800," Discussion Papers on Economics 13/2014, University of Southern Denmark, Department of Economics.
    7. Gozgor, Giray & Paramati, Sudharshan Reddy, 2022. "Does energy diversification cause an economic slowdown? Evidence from a newly constructed energy diversification index," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C).
    8. Henriques, Sofia Teives & Borowiecki, Karol J., 2017. "The drivers of long-run CO2 emissions in Europe, North America and Japan since 1800," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 537-549.
    9. Nielsen, Hana, 2021. "Coal and Sugar: The Black and White Gold of Czech Industrialization (1841-1863)," Lund Papers in Economic History 229, Lund University, Department of Economic History.
    10. Eoin McLaughlin & Paul Sharp & Xanthi Tsoukli & Christian Vedel, 2021. "Ireland in a Danish mirror: A microlevel comparison of the productivity of Danish and Irish creameries before the First World War," Working Papers 0219, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    11. Paul Warde & Astrid Kander & Sofia Teives Henriques & Hana Nielsen & Viktoras Kulionis, 2016. "International trade and the energy intensity in Europe, 1870-1935," Working Papers 16026, Economic History Society.
    12. Kristin Ranestad & Paul Richard Sharp, 2020. "Success through failure? Four Centuries of Searching for Danish Coal," Working Papers 0183, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Coal; dairying; Denmark; energy transition;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • N50 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - General, International, or Comparative
    • Q40 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - General

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