Research

Almost anything that isn’t grown is, ultimately, mined. I have been fascinated by mining my entire life, by the idea of a vast subterranean world beneath our feet, invisible from the surface. I am mostly interested in the people who did the mining and in histories of labour, race, migration and global connections.

My research has focused primarily on the Zambian Copperbelt and can be grouped into four broad projects:

This book is about the white mineworkers who flocked to Zambia’s copper mines from the 1920s and became one of the most affluent groups of workers on the planet. It argues this group was a highly mobile global workforce which constituted, and saw itself as, a racialised working class.

The book is based on my doctoral thesis, which was supervised by Jan-Georg Deutsch, a kind and wonderful man who tragically passed away in December 2016.

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This co-edited book by myself and Danelle van Zyl-Hermann looks at white workers and the white poor in Southern Africa. Ten chapters on Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe collectively track the fortunes of poor and working-class whites during the era of white-minority rule.

The book is open access, so can be read online for free. You can read more about it here.

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Our edited book (co-edited with Robrecht Declercq and Hans Otto Frøland) Born with a Copper Spoon: A Global History of Copper, 1830-1980 will be published in 2022 by University of British Columbia Press.

Chapters in the book stretch from 19th to the early 21 centuries and cover North America, Latin America, Europe, Central Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and Oceania.

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Between 2018 and 2021, I ran a project to preserve and digitise the archives of the Mineworkers’ Union of Zambia (MUZ) at the union’s head office in Kitwe. 

This project is now complete and the union’s archive is accessible to researchers at Katilungu House in Kitwe and will soon be available at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam.

You can read more about the project here.


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