Ernst Homburg, born in Venlo, the Netherlands, in 1952. Ph.D. from Radboud University Nijmegen. Assistant Professor of History at Maastricht University.
Fellow (1 September 1998 – 30 June 1999)
During my stay at NIAS I primarily did research on the history of the Dutch chemical industry between 1890 and 1970, which is going to be published in a book series on the History of Technology in the Netherlands during the 20th Century. The first part of my stay was mainly spent on research in the archives of several chemical companies, foremost of which was the archive of Royal Dutch/ Shell.
During the second part of my stay at NIAS I wrote three chapters of my text on the Dutch chemical industry.The book will start with a chapter on the Dutch fertiliser and sulphuric acid industries, in which I argue that demand preceded supply, and in which I analyse the factors that explain the tremendous growth in technical scale in these sectors between 1870 and 1920.
Then follows a chapter on the rise of R&D laboratories in the Dutch chemical industry. The gradual emergence of such institutions is exemplified by a careful analysis of the sources of technical and scientific knowledge within the Royal Dutch/ Shell organisation.
In the third chapter, which looks at the chemical industries during the First World War, the role of Royal Dutch/ Shell in the Dutch context is further analysed, as part of a concerted effort to found a larger chemical holding company which, like IG Farben, was going to include all major Dutch chemical companies. Although this attempt failed completely as a result of the changed post-war conditions, it nevertheless affected the co-operation between Dutch chemical companies during the interwar period.