Creating, capturing, and circulating commodities: The technology and politics of material resource flows, from the 19th century to the present
Review article, 2020

Extractive resources are unevenly distributed geographically and our dependence on such resources is growing, which has led to ever increasing flows of resources across the world. This situation has caused concern for numerous actors. However, such worries are not new. Todays’ feel of a deeply interconnected, rapidly changing world with global grand challenges has striking resemblances with the nineteenth century mood in the industrializing countries. In this special issue we study the temporal dynamics and multiple geographies of resource flows, and how actors have attempted to shape and control them. In five articles by historians of technology and the environment from Sweden, Russia and the Netherlands, we aim to broaden the view on resource narratives and emphasize their non-static characters by showing developments of resources as they travel through time and space. This introductory article introduces and positions five themes that are addressed in the contributions of special issue. In this special issue scholars discuss (1) the social construction of resources, (2) the importance of resources to nation states, (3) resource flows as transnational practices, (4) technopolitics of resources, and (5) resource flows as global political power hierarches, of resources such as oil, metals, iron ore, uranium and stone.

Extractive resources

Environmental history

Resource nationalism


Transnational history


Resource colonialism

Resource spaces

Resource security


Resource chain dynamics


Global history

Resource construction


History of technology




Frank Veraart

Eindhoven University of Technology

Anna Åberg

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Science, Technology and Society

Hanna Vikström

Umeå University

Extractive Industries and Society

2214-790X (eISSN)

Vol. 7 1 1-7

Subject Categories

Social Anthropology

History of Technology

Human Geography



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