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The labouring miner in Cornwall c. 1740-1870 : a study in social history

By John Rule


This study is concerned with the working and community life of the\ud labouring miner in Cornwall from the seventeen-forties, to the collapse\ud of the copper industry in the late eighteen-sixties. These were the\ud years when copper wining dominated the county's economy. Production began\ud to overhaul that of tin in the 1740's and reached its peak in the quinquennium\ud 1855-60. The rapid rise of this great industry, with the advances\ud in technology and industrial organization which it entailed, makes its\ud story the story of the Industrial Revolution in Cornwall. This study is\ud concerned with the social history of that period of transformation.\ud The first section is a statistical and historical introduction,\ud providing data on the growth of the industry, the size and nature of its\ud labour force, population, and the organization of the industry.\ud Section 2 is concerned with the miner at work. The working conditions\ud in the mines are described, as is the extent and nature of child labour.\ud The system of wage payment is examined in detail as are the changes in\ud hours of work and the rhythm of labour consequent upon the increasing\ud capitalisation of the industry.\ud A third section is concerned with the material conditions of the\ud miner's life; his standards of housing and diet, and considers the family\ud as an economic unit.\ud Section 4 is concerned with popular disturbances and the collective\ud action patterns of the Cornish crowd. The miners were notorious for the\ud frequency and determination with which they used direct action to secure\ud collectively desired ends. Food rioting was the most frequent of such\ud direct action forms, and the incidence, character and effectiveness of the\ud food riot are considered in detail. Other forms of crowd action are then examined.\ud Section 5 is concerned with community life in the mining villages.\ud After a placement of the mining community in its geographical and social\ud setting, attention is turned to Methodism. Methodism's introduction to\ud the county practically co-incided with the beginning of the period under\ud consideration. Thereafter its rise was rapid and its influence considerable.\ud Its growth is outlined, the character of village Methodism analysed and the\ud phenomenon of recurrent revivalism examined. Particular aspects of\ud community life are then considered in turn, viz. patterns of recreation,\ud education, and smuggling and wrecking, the last being examples of forms of\ud behaviour which were in conflict both with the law, and with the prevailing\ud moral teaching of Methodism.\ud A final section is concerned with the impact of trade-unionism and\ud political radicalism on the miners. It is a concluding examination in which\ud the lack of social, industrial, and political militancy among the miners is\ud examined in the light of the industrial and social organisation of the\ud region, the strength and influence of Methodism and the effect of the tribute\ud system. The period was one of transformation, this final section\ud looks at the problem of why the absence of forms of conflict usually\ud associated with a period of rapid industrialisation was so marked

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  1. (cormm3.; Gazette 26th )'eb. 1641).
  2. 1 P.P. 1842 (Children) .psrt of Purhen p. 759 2 P.P.1841p.94 3 jtorthrs St 13th ipril 1839 4 Wee Jriton 26th ing. 1853 5 ibid. 23rd Sept. 1853 6 guarterli eij, 1557 p. 312388.
  3. 96
  4. 9b 11 iact bin Cor't'b lands th. (th. i4ods) roar, AM two rich ablpvresha
  5. (1868). ansa.rd 24th April 3807 p. 543 P.1. 184] p. 1) Methodist Mage.sine (liii) p.
  6. Coz.elml3[ Gsfstt 20th )Isreh 1840.
  7. every Zeckirig district. The evidence on this point is rarely specifics in fact it is extreaely vague, Tales .1 the Cornish using hobbled donkey's with lanterns attached t then to inState the np and dom novenent of
  8. In lbxuary 1866 the JUnsrs' Mutual )ensfit Association v.a formed, but some of th. articles of it. pr.posed cod• proved that the Coruvall Cas.tte wa right is seeing that this benefit society was a tradi unIon. (5) The.. vex.
  9. in the d.trjbetiau eti.srk r*u1x.I by ssugg1j. The 4iiposal of 1.xM oautrsbeM required too .esautia3a news of treneport frau the shore, wi $ hidiu pies. in whisk cargoes could be stored ntil sold. -industry wee well placid to supply both
  10. iS vss braz4y ms the count's .qid,slent to Lco&s gin. £ recent book
  11. It is not doi
  12. J. Vivian, sale. of the Cornieb S. g1e±rs (Truro 1969) 16-17 A.X. E.tltozi Jenkin, ii Cornishjtiner (1927) p. 63 Doria's leo. cit.
  13. o whet a aeroy, when I p.eive th. blood coning out of my south, to f..1 the blood *f Jesus flowing into my soul, az4 .nab1in a. Uen then to rejoto.! (R. ?z'stfxy, $.so*z of John }4mrd ste (i8 'J entry for 2nd June 3.533) Patalian
  14. Poaching was alas a ruSted
  15. The Adventurers had boss a long tin. waiting for a reman for their .utlq, it had eves they wet, too gzs.dy to gather it in to t) 4" of the patient toilers wdergrouM.' (west rito* 27th Jan. 1872).380.
  16. The Cor4sb aicers jezu1ly reo.1v.d a acd press fros r1nete.nth csntiii.ry writrs. 'ei1i. Collins found then in 1850; a cheerful, contented race0, with the views of the vortint isn, r.smrkably soderate and sensible.
  17. This effect of ltsthodiaa wee reirk.d by a visitor to C.rnimll within the lifetia. of Jobs Wesley ''elt. t111sa

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