The Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlen-Syndikat and concentration in the Ruhr mining industry

The Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlen-Syndikat and concentration in the Ruhr mining industry

In 1893, 98 mines in the Ruhr united to form the Rheinisch-Westfälisches Kohlen-Syndikat (RWKS, Rhine-Westphalian Coal Syndicate), with the aim of avoiding unhealthy competition on the coal market in the future. In 1904, 98 % of the coal mined in the Ruhr was produced by the syndicate. In 1945 the syndicate was disbanded on the orders of the Allied occupying forces. Despite its 52-year existence, the RWKS was never as stable as it outwardly appeared.

From the beginning, conflicts over the distribution of resources raged within the organization, conflicts which could not be settled cooperatively, still less after membership was extended to the district’s Hüttenzechen (combined mines and coking plants) – a necessary step to ensure that the syndicate fulfilled its purpose. These conflicts would have led to the dissolution of the RWKS in 1915, if it had not been forced to continue by the state, which saw the cartels as a wartime necessity. Members such as Hugo Stinnes and August Thyssen felt that the time of the cartels was up, and that trusts were the structure best suited to Germany’s path into the future. A historical investigation can cast light on this development, and at the same time give an explanation of the effect of cartels on the process of concentration in the German economy.

The aim of the study is to examine the significance of the syndicate for the concentration process in the Ruhr mining industry. The study focuses on the following questions:

  • What form did the development of the syndicate take?
  • How did the syndicate succeed in balancing the opposing interests of its members, and why, in 1915, was this balance no longer successful on a voluntary basis?
  • What incentives for horizontal and vertical concentration did it give the economic actors, and how did they make use of these?
  • What kind of relationship existed between the cartel and the state authorities?

Based on the theoretical assumptions of new institutional economics, the structures, strategies and processes of the relevant actors will be described by means of a critical analysis of the secondary literature and of the sources, especially those available in the Bergbau-Archiv Bochum. The project is being carried out as a dissertation at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB).


Thomas Jovovic

Project manager

Dr. Michael Farrenkopf

Responsible body

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum


Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum/Sondertatbestand im Bund-Länder-Haushalt


Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Lehrstuhl für Wirtschafts- und Unternehmensgeschichte der/Prof. Dr. Dieter Ziegler


2008 - 2013