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European Steel Production: Timeline, History, and Important Milestones

Steel was invented about 4000 years ago with the rise of the Iron Age. It was thought that Iron was harder than Bronze and many other metals a reason why they chose to look for another alternative. This is the reason why steel started to suppress bronze in the tools and weaponry industry.
However, the quality of the steel produced would depend entirely on the availability of ore and the production methods at hand. Although this time, there were no advanced technologies in the iron production industry, the production was increasing with the invention of new methods of mining and understanding of the iron. Modern-day technologies allow steel to be refined and molded down to bars, tubes, and more, which you can view more on
By the 17th Century, most people in Europe had understood the concepts of mining and iron. This increased after the first civilization. There was also a huge increase in demand for steel in Europe, which means they would toil to produce more of it.

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Though, the most breakthrough in the steel industry was seen in the 19th century with the second civilization. This was in 1850 when Henry Bessemer designed another method of using oxygen to reduce the content of carbon in iron.
The Chinese were already using the blast furnaces as early as the 6th century. This was not widely used in Europe, but later the same was diffused to other countries. When this technology hit Europe, there was an increase in the production of cast iron.
Before the advancements that we say in the 1860s, steel was not a big deal because it was made in small quantities and was specifically used in making tools, swords, and cutlery.
By this time, England and Germany were the centers of production. It was centered around Middlesbrough and Sheffield. Britain was the largest producer supplying all the other markets, including Americans and the European markets.

The open health operations and the Bessemer were the things that contributed significantly to the production of steel. The Bessemer process means that the molten pig iron is converted into steel by simply blowing air through it after it comes from the furnace.
The air will help to burn the carbon and silicon out. This is actually what released the heat and made the temperatures increase. Henry Bessemer demonstrated this technology in 1856. A few years later, the process was successful, and many miners had already turned to it. That is the reason why this technology was being used by 1870 to make the ship plate.

As a matter of fact, the speed, weight, and quantity of railway traffic were limited by the strength of the wrought iron rails that were being used. You would expect that all these were expensive, but because of the Bessemer technology, they were competitive in the price.
The experience made people realize that the steel had more strength and was able to withstand the whole process a reason why it was used widely after this.

Open-Hearth Furnaces Technology

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By the 1890s, the Bessemer technology was being gradually replaced by the Open Hearth steelmaking. By the mid-20th century, this was no longer in use.
The Open Hearth furnace technology was introduced in the 1860s in France and Germany. This technology used pig iron, ore, and scrap to make the steel. This is why the whole process started being referred to as Siemens Martins’s process.
The good thing with this step is that it allowed closer monitoring of the composition of the steel. Additionally, a substantial quantity of scrap could be included in the charge.
This process was essentially the most used in the 20th century for making steel.

The Electric Arc Furnace

This was the technology that came to replace Open Hearth Steelmaking in the 1900s. The technology was preferred because many steel manufacturers believed that it was very efficient and made the whole process easy. The primary reason why this was adored is that the cost of electricity remained down.

Steel in Britain

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In the 19th century, Britain was the first country in Europe that contributed significantly to the industrial revolution. The country had an early commitment to coal mining, textile mining, railway, and machinery.
The main reasons why Britain was among the topmost influential steel producers is because of the demand, the ample capital, and eventually energetic entrepreneurs.
Britain accounted for about 47% of all the steel that was produced by 1875. A third of this pig iron came from the Middlesbrough area contributing to about 40% of the steel produced. Most of the steel produced by this time was being exported to the US. This is because the US was rapidly growing its railways and other infrastructures.
Two decades from this time, the British share had already dropped to 29% of pig iron. Very little of the steel was being exported to the US. What this means is that Britain lost it’s American Market, and other countries started to peak and get a share of that market. The US also was able to produce more of its own iron, which was at per the main producers.


Germany was also another country that also had major milestones in the steel industry. The Ruhr Valley acted as the main source of German iron and the steel industry. What this means is that this country was among the biggest contributors to the iron industry.
In 1850 the Ruhr had about 50 Ironworks with about 2,813 full-time employees. In the country, the first modern Furnace was built in the 1840s.
The rapid growth in steel demands was scaled by the creation of the German Empire. When World War 1 Hit in the 1880s, the demand for iron to make vehicles and many other things increased.
Other European countries, including France, Italy, and many other countries also contributed significantly. The market for steel in Europe has also increased significantly over the years, but China and India have already taken up the market. The steel market in this region is also promising because of the increase in technology and cheap labor.