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Profitability and production in 19th century composite ships: the case study of the Austrian vessel, the Slobodna

Rodriguez, Eric A. (2012) Profitability and production in 19th century composite ships: the case study of the Austrian vessel, the Slobodna. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The shipbuilding strategies of the late-19th century are defined by the adaptations and incorporation of new building materials that allowed for the specialization and near perfection of the sailing ship as a commerce vehicle. European shipbuilding industries began incorporating iron as a building material as its value became lower than that of timber. As the more affordable alternative, iron alleviated the pressures of decreasing timber reserves and the material’s growing value. Iron was integrated into merchant ships, creating larger stronger hulls and achieving faster freighting rates. The first iron and wood hybrids were known as composite ships, which increased the economic surplus of the industries due to low production costs and increasing efficient freighting rates. As the revenue increased, industries expanded into the specialized production of iron ship parts eliminating more of their reliance of wooden craftsmanship and its costly application. The lost cost and benefits of ironworking in sailing ships gave sailing dominion over the long-distance trade while the steamship controlled regional trade.
The steamship produced only low returns on long-distance trade due to high fuel consumption and frequent repair, giving the sailing ship a specialized role for trade. With the creation of the fuel-conscious triple combustion engine in the late-1880s, the steamship became more efficient and profitable than sailing ships, which were then phased out of commercial trading. However, this trend did not happen simultaneously across Europe as the availability and level of industrial production varied. Austrian builders continued practicing traditional shipbuilding methods up to the 1880s, as it remained the most cost-efficient method of construction for long distance trade. Through an archaeological and historic study of one of these Austrian vessels, the Slobodna, it is possible to observe the different methods that European countries at the time utilized in order to maintain their approaches to capitalism. Through an interdisciplinary approach consisting of history, Marxian economics, and maritime archaeology, it is possible to identify and further examine the relationship between the motivation to achieve high profitability in shipbuilding and the incorporation of technological advancements in the industrial and economic situations that were present in 19th century Europe.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rodriguez, Eric A.ear39@pitt.eduEAR39
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Thesis AdvisorHanks, Bryanbkh5@pitt.eduBKH5
Committee MemberAllen, Kathleenkmallen@pitt.eduKMALLEN
Committee MemberChaiklin, Marthachaiklin@pitt.eduCHAIKLIN
Committee MemberSturt,
Date: 25 May 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 13 April 2012
Approval Date: 25 May 2012
Submission Date: 20 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 104
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Maritime Archaeology, Shipwrecks, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, Technological Transitions, Marxian Economics
Date Deposited: 25 May 2012 19:14
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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