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The King and the Church

A World Heritage site like Røros is created by intensive labour, capital investment and strict administration. The State, or, in other words, the autocratic King had to make the necessary arrangements and exercise his power in order to promote development.

Jarle Simensen

The King's motives were to create commercial development that could make the country richer and generate taxes. In accordance with the existing land laws the King had the right to all "unused" forests and mountain areas, and, prior to the commencement of the copper works' operations in the Røros district, there were hardly more than six to eight farms and some mountain sheep and dairy settlements and pasture land for the neighbouring communities of Aalen to the north and Os in the south. The whole of this "unused" area was made available for exploitation by the copper works in the form of a concession with privileges for the investors or participants in 1646. The first major owner was the King's chamberlain and lender of money in Copenhagen, Joachim Jurgens. However, within a relatively short period ownership was transferred to the powerful trading families in Trondheim of, Angell, Mollmann, Meincke, Hornemann. These families retained control right up to 1936. The Board of Directors and administration of Røros Copperworks was kept in Trondheim throughout its existence.

By way of the documents of privilege the King delegated some of his absolute authority to the Company. This entailed the establishment of a Company Court of Justice called "Bergretten", made up of Company officers. They were empowered to hand down judgements in cases concerning the Company's operations and matters in connection with employees. The Court could also appoint forest inspectors and charcoal inspectors who had the power to fine and take possession of the goods of the workers and peasants who did not follow the Company's regulations. The highest authority in the Court was the "Bergamtet" or Mining Council in Trondheim where the participants (investors) dominated. The boundaries between Company authority and the authorities appointed in the normal course of events by the King in Gauldalen and Osterdalen were not clear.

Workers who planted fields in the Røros district close to the mines rented their fields from the Company, and were thereby particularly dependent. Until 1800 the company also had a monopoly on all purchases and sales of provisions and issued company notes to the labourers and farmers for goods they produced but at Company determined prices. In this way the Company became something of its own small kingdom up in the mountains.

In order for mining operations to be at all possible it was essential to supply timber for the mines and charcoal to the smelting huts from the forests in the neighbouring districts. It was also essential to transport the mined ore from the mineshafts to the smelters and the end product of unrefined copper to Trondheim. The King decreed that the concession area would be encompassed within a circle having a radius of four ancient miles around Røros. Reaching far down to the northern parts of Osterdal (East Valley) and Gauldalen the King also had the right to demand that the farmers and owners of forests within the "circumference" cut down the forests and deliver the timber to the Company at a price determined by the Company. This could be called forced labour but the farmers were for their own motives interested in earning money, and, after a time, an element of competition crept in concerning the transport of timber and working in the mines. "Money, money, money", wrote Falkberget, that was all they thought about. Thus, here and in other out-station areas in Europe as well as in the developing countries, local populations have been dragged into money-driven economies. There were often disputes about payment. During the first half century of operations there were many protests and the transport of timber was halted, and in 1670 it came to actual riots when the clerks of the Company were physically attacked and one of the workers' leaders, Spell-Ola, was forcibly set free from arrest. Finally, the King stepped in and established an enquiry commission, The Bragernes Commission, which in 1685 required the Company to abide by a detailed list of duties in connection with the workers. If the State was to continue to receive regular tax income then there had to be peace between the workers and the capitalists.

When the State became more democratic after 1814, then the Government in Oslo, together with the locally elected municipal councils, could better represent district interests and reduce the Company's despotic approach. The Government passed a resolution to permit free trade and allow private businesses to be established. In 1872 the Government decided to build the Røros railway line, even though the track would be longer and have to negotiate greater differences in height in comparison to another via Kvikne. By the end of the 1800s the Røros workers became unionised and they were considered to be radical labour force. By 1905 the people of Røros and of the neighbouring communities voted clearly in favour of a republic. The Great Strikes in Røros in 1901 and again in 1914 led to national strikes in the mining industry. When there was a economic crisis at the Company in the years immediately after the First World War the State stepped in with financial support. Johan Falkberget was a member of parliament during this period. In 1936 te State took over the old shares of the owners in Trondheim and presented them to Røros municipality. This caused the leader of the local action committee, Henrik Grønn to proclaim, "300 years of serfdom have come to an end." But the price of copper fell and State assistance was not enough. In the 1950s the smelting shed at Røros was closed down after 300 years of work. During the period after 1945 when the Government was dedicated to the goal of achieving district development the people of Røros were known to be very clever at obtaining funds from the ministries in Oslo. Commerce and trade became more diversified.

Further references

Ole Øisang: Røros kobberverks historie, bind II i Rørosboka. Trondheim, Globusforlaget. 1942.&
Diverse bidrag i Rørosboka, bind I, særlig av Olav Kvikne om lokalsamfunn, kultur og næringsliv.
Volker Seresse: Tysk bergverkstradisjon ved Røros Kobberverk 1671-1685. Trondheim, Tapir, 1992.
Knut Sprauten: "Bondeøkonomi og koparverk nordafjells", i Anna Tranberg og Knut Sprauten, red.: Norsk bondeøkonomi 1650-1850. Oslo, Det norske samlaget, 1996.
Jarle Simensen: "Røros som et eksempel på sentrum-periforhold", Fjellfolk nr 13, 1988.

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