Miners, silica and disability: the bi-national interplay between South Africa and the United Kingdom, c1900-1930s

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This paper investigates silicosis as a disabling disease in underground mining in the United Kingdom (UK) before Second World War, exploring the important connections between South Africa and the UK and examining some of the issues raised at the 1930 International Labour Office Conference on silicosis in Johannesburg in a British context. The evidence suggests there were significant paradoxes and much contestation in medical knowledge creation, advocacy, and policy-making relating to this occupational disease. It is argued here that whilst there was an international exchange of scientific knowledge on silicosis in the early decades of the twentieth century, it was insufficient to challenge the traditional defense adopted by the British government of proven beyond all scientific doubt before effective intervention in coal mining. This circumspect approach reflected dominant business interests and despite relatively robust trade union campaigning and eventual reform, the outcomewas an accumulative legacy of respiratory disease and disability that blighted coalfield communities
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-30
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Industrial Medicine
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2015


  • compensation
  • disability
  • medical knowledge
  • mining
  • silicosis
  • South Africa
  • United Kingdom


Disability and Industrial Society 1780-1948: A Comparative Cultural History of British Coalfields: Statistical Compendium

McIvor, A. (Creator), Turner, D. (Creator), Thompson, S. (Creator), Bohata, K. (Creator), Long, V. (Creator), Mantin, M. (Creator), Blackie, D. (Creator), Curtis, B. (Creator), Turner, A. (Creator), Brown, V. (Creator), Jones, A. (Creator) & Borsay, A. (Creator), 10 Dec 2016


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