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Environment, Antecedent and Adventure: Tin and Copper Mining on Dartmoor, Devon, C.1700-1914

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posted on 16.03.2012, 14:18 by Philip Newman
The tin and copper industries of Dartmoor in Devonshire are investigated through an analysis of the earthworks and ruined structures which constitute the surface evidence of mining. An entirely new body of data has been assembled resulting from field investigation, survey and documentary research, focussing specifically on the surface remains of underground mining, the dressing of the ores and the evidence for water power. This has enabled a reconstruction of key elements of the mining landscape and established the scale of the processes involved. An analytical methodology has been developed which contextualises the archaeological remains in terms of local environment and social antecedent, together with a broader framework of inference based on consumption, global trade in metals and the impact of historical capitalism on the organization of mining. This has provided a novel interpretive framework that combines the environmental and social inimitability of a mining region with contemporary global, socio-economic trends. This precise approach has not previously been applied to any mining district in the United Kingdom. The results demonstrate that for the study period c.1700 to 1914, Dartmoor shares many historical and technological similarities with other mining districts in the south-west peninsula. However, its environmental configuration of marginal ore sources and plentiful water supplies, together with a strong belief in the resources by those who strove to exploit them, following centuries of tradition, enabled an industry to survive, albeit materially small in scale, over much of the late 18th and the 19th centuries. The dynamic role of capital investment through joint adventure is also examined in the light of these considerations and the results suggest that on Dartmoor at least, the genesis and impact of capitalism had a character partly determined by locality.



Palmer, Marylin; Horning, Audrey

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University of Leicester

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