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1st Seminar: Martin Ivanov, "Sailing against the tide: Bulgaria’s textile industry and the first globalization c. 1830-1912"

Ivanov Martin (University of Sofia)
Socrates Petmezas (University of Crete) and Andreas Lyberatos (Panteion University)


Bulgaria as one of the leading industrial districts of the late Ottoman Empire features prominently in the de-industrialization debate during the First Globalization. Gerschenkron, and recently Palairet, see Bulgaria as the epitome of a failed industrialization with secondary sector on the eve of Balkan Wars much smaller than in c. 1870. Compiling a large set of fresh data I am able to produce several spot estimates of Bulgarian textile output from c. 1870 to 1912. They allow to track the broad contours of the textile boom until mid-1870s, the deep and prolonged recession that followed, and the re-industrialization phase after 1902. Different to what earlier scholarship believed, by 1911-12 textile production was significantly higher than in 1870 and more importantly, factory manufacturing had replaced the old proto-industry.
Astonishingly, Bulgarian textile sector flourished between 1820s and early 1870s when, according to the terms of trade reconstructions by Williamson et al., the ‘periphery’ experienced the most devastating wave of de-industrialization. Moreover, Bulgarian woollen production sunk into protracted recession from mid-1870s onwards, at a time of considerable weakening of de-industrialization forces. Rich qualitative and quantitative information analysed in this study point to geography, remoteness and high inland transportation costs. Specialization in wool, rather than cotton, was also instrumental for Bulgaria’s successful sailing against the terms of trade tide. 


Martin Ivanov is Associate Professor of Economic History at the University of Sofia. He has worked many years as a researcher at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. He has also served as Plenipotentiary Ambassador of Bulgaria to Finland and Estonia (2016-2020), Minister of Culture (2014) and National Archivist of Republic of Bulgaria (2011-2013). His books (in Bulgarian) include Sailing against the Wind: Bulgarian Textile Industry, ca. 1800-1912. (2022); The Gross Domestic Product of Bulgaria, 1870–1945. (2012); The Networking Capitalism: Bulgarian Commercial Bank and its Dependent Companies, 1890–1914. (2010); Bulgarian Business Elites, 1912–1947, 1989–2005, (2009, co-authored with Georgi Ganev).


Date: Monday 7 November 2022, 16:00-18:00

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