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Palgrave Macmillan

Mining Gold and Manufacturing Ignorance

Occupational Lung Disease and the Buying and Selling of Labour in Southern Africa

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  • Open Access
  • © 2023

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  • Makes a key contribution to African history by redefining the place of the gold mining industry in the world economy
  • Charts the making and contesting of the mining companies’ capacity to shape and corrupt medical knowledge
  • Brings together two decades of meticulous archival research
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

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About this book

This open access book charts how South Africa’s gold mines have systematically suppressed evidence of hazardous work practices and the risks associated with mining.

For most of the twentieth century, South Africa was the world’s largest producer of gold. Although the country enjoyed a reputation for leading the world in occupational health legislation, the mining companies developed a system of medical surveillance and workers’ compensation which compromised the health of black gold miners, facilitated the spread of tuberculosis, and ravaged the communities and economies of labour-sending states. The culmination of two decades of meticulous archival research, this book exposes the making, contesting, and unravelling of the companies’ capacity to shape – and corrupt – medical knowledge.

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Table of contents (15 chapters)

  1. The Gold Mines and Migrant Labour

  2. Science Solves Health Crises

  3. Manufacturing and Contesting Ignorance

  4. The End Game


This book provides the definitive study of the human costs of the world’s economic “progress” on the backs and lungs of South Africa’s miners. Employing heretofore unused archival sources, it documents the ways in which white mine owners and politicians adopted policies that led to devastating disease and early death for black miners and their families. Importantly, it will help bring crucial information about Occupational and Environmental hazards to workers and communities.

—Gerald Markowitz, Distinguished Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and History, John Jay College and Graduate Center, USA

This highly readable and informative book pulls together an impressive breadth of materials about the exploitation of black gold miners and public health failures, spanning many decades. It is an important book on issues of historical and contemporary significance in Southern Africa, but also in countries such as India, China and Brazil – just toname a few.

—David Rees, School of Public Health, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melbourne, Australia

    Jock McCulloch

  • School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, (emerita), RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia

    Pavla Miller

About the authors

Jock McCulloch (1945 - 2018) was one of the foremost historians of occupational health of his generation. He also wrote on colonization, race relations, and psychiatry. Jock was Emeritus Professor of History at RMIT University (Australia), and fellow of both the Australian Academy of the Social Sciences and the Academy of the Humanities. 

Pavla Miller is Emeritus Professor of Historical Sociology at RMIT University (Australia). She wrote Long Division: State Schooling in South Australian Society; Transformations of Patriarchy in the West; and Patriarchy. An interdisciplinary scholar, she also published on explanations of low fertility, masters and servants’ legislation, children’s work, and the Australian National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Mining Gold and Manufacturing Ignorance

  • Book Subtitle: Occupational Lung Disease and the Buying and Selling of Labour in Southern Africa

  • Authors: Jock McCulloch, Pavla Miller

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Singapore

  • eBook Packages: Social Sciences, Social Sciences (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2023

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-981-19-8326-9Published: 21 March 2023

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-981-19-8329-0Published: 21 March 2023

  • eBook ISBN: 978-981-19-8327-6Published: 20 March 2023

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XIII, 459

  • Topics: Occupational Medicine/Industrial Medicine, Public Health, History of Science, African History, Imperialism and Colonialism

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