Plzeňské sympozia

Vladislav Krátký

People and Cannons in the Škoda Works in Pilsen

pp. 131–144 (Czech), summary 144 (English)

The author, a long-term employee of the archives of the Škoda Works in Pilsen, studies on archival materials the essential political, economic and technological changes that determined the primacy of the Škoda Works in the European arms industry. The rapid development of industry in the Bohemian Lands in the second half of the 19th century caused that a number of mechanical engineering plants began to make weapons. These included handguns, ammunition, parts of land fortifications and armour for the army of Austria-Hungary as well as for its navy. A strong impetus for the process of army and navy modernisation was the defeat in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866. Also the Škoda Works in Pilsen began to reduce the production of the equipment for sugar refineries, distilleries and breweries in the 1870s. The design office of the Škoda Works in Pilsen created in 1877 the first small-calibre ship cannon with a calibre of 66 mm, whose author was the Czech officer Vilém Pucherna. In its design, this cannon outdid all the designs of similar guns produced by large European arms factories. At the end of 1899, the Škoda Works became a joint-stock company. The majority shareholders were the Austrian Creditanstalt and the Czech Eskompt Bank (Böhmische Eskompt-Bank), with Emil Škoda becoming Director General; he however died already in the summer of 1900. In the industrial crisis which paralysed the Austrian mechanical engineering industry at the turn of the century, the new management succeeded in leading the works out of crisis and assuming one of the leading positions among the world arms factories mainly in the area of heavy artillery. Škoda Works excelled chiefly in the categories of heavy mortars and howitzers with a highly effective method of their transportation into mountain firing positions. Not even special mountain guns and their export overseas and to the Far East were marginal.

Key words: Bohemian Lands, 19th century, cultural history, arms industry, army

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