The extraction of valuable minerals from the ground has been one of the driving forces behind human development. It is a dangerous pursuit but has proven to be a rewarding one that has furthered our understanding of the Earth and its past. It has also shown us the dramatic effect we are having on the planet by mining out and using the minerals we need. The story of mining is not limited to just the minerals that we have gained. The attitudes towards miners, the communities they have formed, their effect on labour rights and the economy even their clothes have all had an indelible impact on our society.
The first miners date back to our prehistoric past. These ancients learned the value of stone for making tools and weapons. Flint was the most important as it could be shaped into sharp axe and arrowheads. There is evidence of mines being cut into the chalk hills of the Cotswolds that open out into small galleries purely to gain some flint. In Ancient Egypt, gold and malachite mining were commonplace. Fire was employed to break open the rock where the gold was located. The miners would wash the rock dust to separate the gold from it.
Next was bronze and tin. Because it was such a dangerous job the Greeks used slaves. This was a practice followed by the Romans as they sought out Iron ore. This use of slaves was to prove that mining would need vast amounts of human resources even when there is archaeological evidence to show that the Romans used a form of Hydraulics to washout stone and clear debris.
Mining indeed became ingrained in British society when coal was needed to fuel the industrial revolution. It is hard to comprehend how much we depended on coal. It powered electrical generators and industrial machines, large Ocean going liners and small trading ships, canal boats and steam trains, and it was the primary source of heat and cooking in our homes. The North and East Midlands of England, The centre of Scotland and South East Wales were hubs of coal production for one hundred and fifty years.
These required the men of the region to leave the farm fields and move to the Mining towns that had sprung up in support of the industry. These mines were run privately by a select few. Profit was the key, and the health and safety of the men and young boys that worked below was not a concern. Explosions from natural gas occurred, flooding from rainwater and underground springs were common, every miner knew that each day could be his last. The hours were long, and the pay was measly. The companionship and camaraderie that the men began to share showed them the power they had as a collective. They realised that if they withdrew their labour for better pay and conditions, they could bring the country to a grinding halt.
The clothes of the miner have given us one of the most famous looks there is. Developed by Levi Strauss, Jeans are hardwearing workwear for the miners. We have adapted them for fashion wear, and the best type remains Mens Tommy Hilfiger Jeans such as those available from www.ejmenswear.com/men/tommy-hilfiger/jeans.