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Free Public Lecture - The Riches Beneath Our Feet: How mining shaped Britain

Professor Geoff Coyle, author of The Riches Beneath Our Feet: How mining shaped Britain -  a comprehensive account of Britain's mining industries and the effects they had on our wealth, the landscape and the lives of the mining people - is to give a free public lecture at Swansea University on Thursday 28 October 2010.  If you missed this lecture, you can view the podcast here.

The illustrated lecture discusses the remarkable extent of Britain's mining industry and its impact on British society, from the prehistoric flint mines to the present day - a span of some 4,500 years. The talk commences by summarising, with the aid of three maps, the sheer extent of all that mining, encompassing just about everything from arsenic to uranium.
The next focus is on the work of the miner, together with some of the ingenious machines which were developed to make his work less toilsome. The main topic is the lives (and deaths) of the miner and his family. After mentioning some of the mine owners, who were not all ruthless and rapacious, the lecture closes with a look at the present state of Britain's mining.


Wales features significantly (both in the talk and the book) because its varied geology produced a harvest of mineral riches. From Bronze Age times Anglesey and Great Orme were prolific sources of copper. Flintshire was second only to the Pennines as a source of lead and zinc. Manganese was mined near Harlech and gold was mined by the Romans in southern Wales. North Wales was a major source of granite and Blaenau Ffestinniog had huge slate mines and quarries. The greatest of all was, of course, the rich coalfield of South Wales which was also the basis for iron and steel-making as well as providing Swansea with a major industry for refining copper from Cornwall and manufacturing copper items. The talk will also mention industrial strife in Wales and the role of some of the owners.

Professor Geoff Coyle took a degree in mining engineering at the Royal School of Mines but the contraction of the UK coal industry led him to develop another career in operational research and strategic planning. Retirement, however, has allowed Professor Coyle to turn back to his first love of mining and Oxford University Press published his acclaimed book earlier in the year.

The Research Institute for Arts and Humanities public lecture will be held on October 28 2010. Refreshments will be served from 5.15pm, and the lecture will start at 6pm. The lecture will be held in the Wallace Lecture Theatre, Wallace Building, Swansea University – admission is free and all are welcome.

For further information email: riah@swansea.ac.uk or telephone 01792 295190.

Photo caption: Botallack Mine in Cornwall in the late 19th Century. Image courtesy of the Trounson-Bullen Collection.

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