WG Labour in Mining

Amsab-ISH FO.014541
Coal miners waiting to descend, Limburg, 1950s


The EHLN working group Labour in Mining aims at creating and expanding existing, more or less formal and informal contacts and networks of scholars with an interest in labour in mining sector in Europe and around the world. The WG wishes to exchange knowledge, to organize meetings and workshops, to organize and design collective projects, and to participate with sessions in the ELHN Conferences.


Mining has special characteristics not only for its kind of jobs (typically in the underground), its morbidity and workplace accidents, its location linked to the existence of resources and migratory phenomena, the high potential for conflict and harsh working conditions. Its peculiarity has given to labour markets of the sector a kind of isolation in relation to other productive activities. These characteristics have given a particular evolution, reproducing itself internally (through the own families), and perpetuating cultural moulds that have continued along time. The study of the evolution of the labour relations in mining is useful not only for knowing the transformations of  labour in this sector, but also for elaborating more our knowledge of labour history in general, and in some labour markets, characterized by some grade of isolation, in particular.

We have a wide range of literature concerning labour activities in mining, both in the past and the present day. Although much has been done in the field of compiling sources and research, it is a topic that has suffered from a focus on the local scope and thus resulted in various clichés on miner's behavior. Furthermore, some elements have hardly been studied at all, for example: the role of women in the mines and the mining communities regarding the living conditions; the incidence of work related illnesses (silicosis, hydrargyrism, hookworm, lead poisoning, etc.). Moreover little has been studied about Europe's lack of vision about the sector as a whole regarding the evolution of the more relevant mining countries and hubs.

We would like to discuss research related to a broad range of themes and concepts in economic, social and cultural labour history of mining including but not limited to the following:

  • The intersection of class, race, gender, age, global inequality, etc. in labour in mining; Dual work (agricultural and mining), migrations, discrimination.
  • Labour relations: labour organisation, developing of the wage earner work, wages and remuneration systems, hiring and scientific organisation of labour.
  • Technological development and evolution of the job markets: from the steam to the electricity, from the gravimetric concentration systems to the differential flotation, the underground work and the open-cast work, labour problems, incidence in the health and conflicts, technological change and mining conjunctures.
  • Living conditions and inequality. Occupational health and safety in mining: mortality, morbidity, pollution and sanitary institutions.
  • Mining communities: characteristics, problems, urban penalty.
  • Strategies of the management, working movement, industrial paternalism, truck system, conflicts, trade unions.
  • Industrial archaeology of mining activities, immaterial patrimony, culture.
  • Archives of mining activities.

We wish to contribute in the relations between the researchers in this field, in the establishment of research lines and a frame to exchange information and knowledge, publications and other initiatives in this field. Moreover, we are offering a support to databases download and consultation on the mining labour, accesible for the Academy. We also aim at the exchange of knowledge about primary sources, archives, and literature related to the history of labour in mining.



The coordinators of the ELHN Working Group Labour in Mining are:

To contact the working group please use the PDF contact form attached below.

External links

You can find the ELHN Working Group Labour in Mining on the web:

[last updated 10 February 2021]