Miners, silica and disability: The bi-national interplay between South Africa and the United Kingdom, c1900-1930s.
- Arthur McIvor
- American journal of industrial medicine
Oral history materials from the South Wales Miners' Library are used to examine the communal understandings of, collective responses to, the scourge of Miners' Lung (pneumoconiosis) in the 1920s and 1930s. Lay epidemiology in mining communities attributed an aetiological role to coaldust at a time when many experts believed miners' pulmonary disease to be bronchitic, or to be silica-induced. In their efforts to secure compensation claims for their members, union officials instrumentally used scientific expertise in a variety of forms: they contributed to epidemiological evidence; they lobbied for more government-funded research; they 'bought' experts; they duped expert witnesses; and they made sophisticated instrumental appeals to the supposed independence of favorable expert judgements. Eventually, miners' situated' 'local knowledge' became scientific orthodoxy, a success story which may be associated with the class-conscious miners' 'bump of irreverence' about expert knowledge, and with the divided character of the expert core-set, sections of which were receptive to miners' 'local knowledge' claims.