The International Aluminium Cartel: The Business and Politics of a Cooperative Industrial Institution (1886-1978), 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The International Aluminium Cartel

The Business and Politics of a Cooperative Industrial Institution (1886-1978), 1st Edition

By Marco Bertilorenzi


390 pages | 9 B/W Illus.

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Aluminium was one of most cartelised industries in the international economic panorama of the 20th century. Born following the discovery of electrolytic smelting process in 1886, this industry, even in its infancy, established a cartel which characterised its history until nearly 1980. Managers of the aluminium industry from various historical eras and countries shared the same vision about the development of their industry: to keep prices as stable as possible in order to encourage expansions and to provide return on investments. Price instability, which characterised the trade of other commodities, was unknown to the aluminium industry.

This bookneither argues that cartels are fundamentally evil, nor attempts to demonstrate that cartels are optimal business organisations. It instead provides an in-depth and frank analysis of the internal working of industrial organisations and of the interplay between cartels and political powers and institutions. The International Aluminium Cartel offers explanations for the construction and collapse of cartels, descriptions of their operations, and an historical interpretation of their experiences.

Incorporating information gleaned from a unique collection of private and public archives from several countries, this unique study will appeal to a wide variety of readers, including academics interested in industrial and business history.


'In this compelling study of international aluminium cartels, Dr Bertilorenzi deploys his fine grained analysis of a wide coverage of the key sources to explore the political economy of cartelization. The International Aluminium Cartel makes a significant contribution to discussions of varieties of capitalism. It will be read with equal profit by academics and students in humanities and social science faculties, as well as business and management schools alike. Policymakers and regulators will also profit from it.’ – Andrew Perchard, Associate Professor, University of Strathclyde, UK

'Scholars have for long regarded the aluminium industry as the prime evidence of cartelization in the 20th century. Bertilorenzi offers a new insight and new information about the inducement, the modus operandi and the disintegration of the various cartels with a well-structured and accessible style. I strongly recommend it.' - Hans Otto Frøland, Professor, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway

Table of Contents

Part I: From Patents Sharing to Cartels: The rise of the Aluminium Association (1886-1914) 1. Scale, Scope, and Agreements: The birth of the modern aluminium industry, 1886-1900 2. The Aluminium-Association: The dawn of the international cartelisation, 1901-1908 3. Changes at the Top: The new Aluminium-Association, 1909-1914 Part II: Competition and Cooperation from the First World War to the Great Depression (1915-1930) 4. The Great Aluminium War, 1914-1921 5. The Return of Cartelisation: The European Aluminium Association, 1922-1928 6. European Cartel versus American Trust: Cooperation and rivalry in a difficult economic environment, 1928-1930 Part III: Business, Finance and Politics: The rise and fall of the Alliance (1931-1945) 7. The New World Cartel: The inception of Alliance Aluminium Compagnie, 1931-1933 8. The "Great Transformation" of Alliance: An international cartel in an autarkic world, 1934-1938 9. A Cartel in the Turmoil of the War: The causes of Alliance’s termination, 1939-1945 Part IV: Resumption, Collapse and Criminalisation of the Aluminium Governance (1945-1978) 10. The Post-War Governance for Aluminium Industry: The sunset of Alliance and the rise of the "Club," 1945-1953 11. Institutional Innovations: Toward a new balanced equilibrium in the aluminium industry, 1953-1969 12. The "Swan-Song" of the Aluminium Cartel: The end and the criminalisation of the aluminium governance, 1970-1978 (1984)

About the Author

Marco Bertilorenzi is Researcher at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne, France.

About the Series

Routledge International Studies in Business History

Recent years have seen an explosion of research in business history. Business history is now seen variously as a key to understanding a vital aspect of the past, a source of parallels and insights into modern business practice, and a way of understanding the evolution of modern business practice. This series is not limited to any single approach, and explores a wide range of issues and industries.

Authors wishing to submit proposals for publication consideration in the Routledge International Studies in Business History series can contact series editors Jeffrey Fear ( and Christina Lubinski (

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economic History
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Corporate & Business History
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Government & Business