ELHN2021 : a summary

4thELHN – 2nd WORCK conference was held between 30th of August and 3rd of September 2021 in Vienna. LabourInMining WG participated for 3 days, until 1st of September 2021. 

It has been an intense and challenging experience as first hybrid ELHN conference ever. LiM organized 4 panel sessions with 9 papers, a WG meeting and several meetings with other WGs. We had 2 delegates onsite, Leda and Gabriele, and 2 coordinators online, Francesca and José. We managed to go throught this experience with excellent feedback and minor technical problems. We are satisfied of LiM active participation to this event.

The conference online: a live thread

The event was followed day by day with very intense online interaction on twitter and on facebook, with multiple exchanges with individual panelists and the general organizers via their twitter profile. Our online coordinator, Francesca, received positive feedback about our online follow up of the conference. We also received some comments and suggestions for further improvement: this meets and strenghtens our learning by doing attitude. We finally agreed that social network interactions and massive digitalization is not something completly negative, but the correct use of this tools could become a positive element for imroving cooperation and global participation to the network. 

The conference: a summary 

Day 1: 30th of August – the WG meeting

During the WG meeting, our Coordinators and members have exchanged about fullfilled objectives and projects on the run, particularly the publication of ELHN2019 Amsterdam papers.
For the future, we will spend our energies mainly on digital humanities, like expanding our blog creative contents, and on collaborative projects with other WGs. Some of them have already expressed interest for working with us. In particular we are thinking about a joint workshop for 2022….news will come very soon!!

A word was also spent on the ecological disaster that occurred this summer : fires all over the Mediterranean distroyed thousands of hectars of forest. It’s sad, traumatic, but also a sign for everyone, a call for responsability. This call joins the issue of our sessions this year: the environmental and social impact of mining activity. We think that it’s important to pursue our research in this direction: in the future our projects will lead us to explore more deeply the links between labour, industry and environment.

Day 2 : 31st of August – Opening and first sessions

During the first session Environmental and Social Impacts of Mining in Time and Space I, chaired by Leda Papastefanaki we had 3 speakers: Rossana Barragan, Paula Zagalsky and Gabriele Marcon, presenting 2 papers:

Potosí and its logic of long-term extraction by Rossana & Paula
Timber, food, and metals: Comparing impacts of mining extraction in two early modern Italian districts, 1400–1800 by Gabriele

Exciting discussion and interesting points were raised for further investigations about environmental history of mining in modern times. We underlined exspecially the question of landscape for Potosi, as said by Paula and Rossana : “Potosi is an environmental entity, a landscape”. This landscape, and its envirnmental issues, were wider than Potosi as a mining site, and extended to the whole Potosi region and more. Gabriele raised with much interest the question of sustainability of mining activity with his case studies in modern Tuscany and Venice. Sustainability is, in this sens, a concept that is related to environment not only entended as the territory or the natural resources, but also as the social structures and the communities around the mining sites, with all the social dynamics like mobility, economic strategies and cultural behaviours. At the end of this session it was agreed that the concept of sustainability has to be put in relation with political ecology, social mobility and the formation of labour force.

After lunchtime and a small talk with our fellows WGs, we were back at 4 pm to open the second session: Environmental and Social Impacts of Mining in Time and Space II chaired by Gabriele Marcon with 2 speakers: Francesca Sanna and Leda Papastefanaki, presenting two papers:

The environmental mining impact in the Mediterranean, first half of the 20th century by Francesca

The economic, social, and environmental impact of mining in north Euboea, Greece (1860s–2000s)” by Leda

The discussion shifted to the problem of forest uses and mining landscapes in the contemporary mediterranean area. Francesca exposed her hypothesis about the construction of managerial models in the exploitation of resources, stressing the problem of firm strategies and behaviours, extractivist or “sustainable”, in relation to the surroundings and on a more transnational level. Leda detailed the greek case of mining activity on Euboea island, stressing the point of deforestation and landscape transformation. She also made a point on the effects that the abandon of this post-industrial land could cause today, remembering the fires that affected Greece this summer, and Euboea very violently.
This discussion concluded on a crossed comeback to the morning session issues, with a interesting overview about the concept of IMPACT of mining environments on a diachronic basis.

Our sessions concluded with a warm wish for further research about this topics that maybe will be presented in a next conference, which we all hope, this time, in full on-site presence !

Day 3 : 1st of september – Last sessions and End of ELHN

Conference day begins with a all-Zoom session at 11 am, chaired remotely by José Joaquin Garcia Gomez, and 3 speakers from Spain. In fact, today’s session is called:
Economic and Social Impacts of Mining : The case of Spain
Papers discussed:

Labour markets formation during the Golden Age of Spanish mining (1850–1920): Evolution and specificities of the labour force by Ángel Pascual Martínez Soto, Lluís Torró Gil, Miguel Á. Pérez de Perceval Verde, Ignacio Suay-Matallana

Migratory networks in the configuration of mining communities in Spain in the 19th century: Linares (1840–1890) by Andrés Sánchez-Picón, Víctor Luque de Haro, María del Carmen Pérez Artés

Education and the mining industry in Spain in the late 19th century by Adrian Palacios

The interesting discussion that followed underlined the importance of quantitative analysis and macro perspective f the three papers, but also the need for qualitative indepht, for exemple on the concept of dual-worker (1st paper) or mobility (2nd and 3rd papers). The issues of demography, literacy and labour structure of spanish mining regions were at the top of the agenda. The very impressive work of all the researchers showed how the spanish mining history is rich and full of still undigged questions.

Mining in Linares

After a quick lunch, the group sat again in front of the screens for the 4th and the last session of this conference: Economic and Social Impacts of Mining : Americas, Africa and Europe. This more global session, chaired by Francesca Sanna enlisted 2 papers:

Monetary compensation and wellbeing of copper mine labour in Chile and the central African Copperbelt: a long-term comparative perspective (1910 to 1970) by Dácil Juif (title changed)

Contextualising social and ethnopolitical unrest in late socialist Kosovo against the life cycle of mining by Pieter Troch

A very productive discussion was engaged about ethno-political landscape, unrest and living standards in mining areas such as Chile, African copperbelt and Kosovo. A particular methodological question was also raised: the power of comparative perspective in mining history and the importance of micro-history to make a local story a global analysis.

The Coordinators addressed a last word to speakers and participants, hoping for improving collaborations, exchanges and participation via our channels (email, SR, blog). They underlined that collaboration is the vey aim of the WG, as a network of researchers and, for this, they invited everyone to take a look the all the projects in progress on our blog!


Looking forward to the next ELHN 2024 in Uppsala ( but maybe even for previous events), we hope that you enjoyed the exchanged and learned something new and interesting in this conference. 



Cite this blog post
LIM COORDINATORS (2021, September 3). ELHN2021 : a summary. Labour In Mining. Retrieved June 17, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/qwcs

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