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The Last Ice Age: The trade in natural ice as an agent of modernaization and economic integration in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries

Prosjektperiode: 2018-2022

Finansiering: Norges forskningsråd

Kontaktperson i MiA: Kirsten Linde, konservator NMF, prosjektdeltaker. Epost: kirsten.linde@mia.no

Prosjektets nettside: https://marmuseum.no/en/the-last-ice-age 

The research project

The overarching aim of the project is to enhance knowledge and understanding of the scale, character and significance of the natural ice business during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The overseas trade in ice will be analyzed in the wider contexts of transport history, technological and logistical developments, changes in consumer patterns and environmental factors during this era. It will thereby highlight the economic, social and cultural implications of what might be called a ‘logistical and dietary revolution’ by generating and disseminating illuminating insights into the process of technological innovations and economic integration that created modern urban culture and city living.

A great number of local history works have been written about the ice trade, both in the US and in Europe, together with a number of more general overviews. Academic books and articles have more seldom been published on this subject, with those that have appeared mainly limited to certain aspects of the trade and shipping of ice.

Approaches, hypotheses and choice of method
The proposed project is designed to build on the scant literature on the history of the ice trade to fill major gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the natural ice business, in conjunction with the development of modern cooling techniques, the history of shipping, general transport history, the development of the food and beverage industries, health and consumer history. In short, the project will examine major economic, technological and cultural developments that together shaped modern urban society in Scandinavia, Northwest Europe and North America.

Aim and relevance

The Last Ice Age will be sustained by research conducted by an international, interdisciplinary team of world-leading global, maritime and environmental historians, a post-doctoral scholar and a group of MA and PhD students. This team will investigate the production, transport and consumption of natural ice trade, an extraordinary business that offers a lens through which under-researched facets of the maritime, urban, social, cultural and environmental histories of Northwest Europe and North America can be perceived. The collective endeavour of experienced scholars and early career researchers will yield a range of scholarly research outputs.

In addition to the benefits described immediately above, we hope that the climate issues that will be highlighted especially in research section 1, when disseminated to a general audience, will contribute to a higher awareness of the extent and consequences of the on-going climate changes.

Peer reviewed anthology: The Last Ice Age: The Production and consumption of Norwegian Natural Ice, 1800-1930

The planned peer reviewed anthology is divided into 4 sections:

​Section 1: Production

Section 2: Transport and Markets

Section 3: Consumption Patterns

Section 4: Ice and Modernization

MiA 's contribution to the project

Curator NMF Kirsten Linde aims to contribute to the anthology with an article:

Smestad Isforretning – Distribution of ice to private households and companies in the Oslo area from 1916 to 1937.

Synopsis: The article examines the distribution area of ice to private households and companies from Smestad Ice company in the Oslo area. Where did the private household customers live and what social classes where they belonging to? How much ice did the private households receive in a year and how did the ice company`s subscription scheme and single sale work out? Which kind of companies provided ice from the ice company and to what use? How many tonnes of ice were delivered to the different types of companies and how were the fluctuations in the deliveries during the seasons? The research follows the customer base from 1916 to 1937 and aims to explain changes in the company`s turnover throughout the period.

Project management and organization

With The Norwegian Maritime Museum/The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History as project owner, The Last Ice Age is conceived as a joint venture between the museum, the School of business at the University college of Southeast Norway (HSN), and the Maritime Historical Studies Centre (MHSC) at the University of Hull, UK. To cover US and German aspects, as well as climatic issues, professor Ingo Heidbrink at ODU in Norfolk VA, who is an Honorary Research Fellow of the MHSC in Hull, will also participate as one of the principal researchers and student supervisors.

Project manager: Per Norseng, Prof. Norwegian Maritime Museum. Epost: per.norseng@marmuseum.no