A risky business
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A risky business book
Around the tin and copper mines of Cornwall there had developed by the middle decades of the nineteenth century what was probably the largest longsettled metal-mining community in the world. It is also one of the bestdocumented mining communities of that era, with written sources of all kinds. The national population census provides basic demographic data from 1801, which were augmented from 1841 by additional statistics, including data on
migration and on the distribution of occupations by age and gender. Several local weekly newspapers were in existence by the 1830s, and the interest they showed in the morbidity and mortality of the working miners was shared by a number of local doctors who published detailed investigations at the parish level. There were several major parliamentary inquiries between 1825 and 1864 which assembled hundreds of pages of testimony on working and living conditions in the mining community from a large and varied population of local witnesses. These written sources provide the main evidence for this study. They have been supplemented by others, including manuscript letters and autobiographical or other author-printed works, especially those deriving from Methodism, whose role is a central concern of this chapter. Aspects of the material culture of the mining community are frequently discussed in detail in the parliamentary inquiries, but little archaeological research has been done on the area’s later history. Visible reminders are hardly rare, from engine houses at the now disused mines to village chapels, now often converted to other uses, but a boom in industrial archaeology in the 1960s and 1970s concentrated almost exclusively on technical and engineering aspects of the mining industry and only marginally on social conditions.