Profits from under the water: The international blubber market, Russian monopolistic companies and the idea of whaling development in the eighteenth century
This article explores the history of the Russian monopolistic companies that operated in the international market for blubber in the first half of the eighteenth century. It argues that the long-held view that the companies were unsuccessful is not supported by the statistics relating to the trade, which indicate impressive progress in terms of market revenue and the redistribution of profits. Moreover, the authorities had ambitious strategic goals for the project as a whole that entailed more than simple commercial success. The companies, in fact, were perceived as an instrument that would transform landlocked Muscovy into a leading power in the international maritime economy. The article analyzes the essence and the consequences of these conflicting perspectives.