Serendipity or Economies? Tin and the Theory of Mineral Discovery, 1800-1920
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The contribution of economic historians to an understanding of the process of mineral discovery and development has been modest and amounts largely to the debate around the theory of Geoffrey Blainey, first put forward in 1970.1 Blainey was concemed to dispel the view harboured by eminent economists like Keynes, Schumpeter and Hansen that the discovery of gold was largely a matter of chance and therefore outside the scope of economic analysis. Using evidence for the discovery of a range of non-ferrous metals in nineteenth-century Australia, Blainey attempted to show that this coincided with the trough and initial upswing of the business cycle. This he explained by the fact that in a depression more people are unemployed and turn to 100king for minerals, while there is also spare capital and interest rates are low, which assists the fmancing of prospecting and development.