The Economic History Review

Small‐scale technologies and European coal mine safety, 1850–1900

Volume 68 Issue 3
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Pages: 887-910Authors: John E. Murray, Javier Silvestre
Published online: November 10, 2014DOI: 10.1111/ehr.12080

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This article considers new technologies and fatal accident rates in European coal mining from 1850 to 1900. Its contributions are twofold: to recover and emphasize improvements in small-scale mine technologies such as safety lamps and ventilation, and, second, to deny any role at this time for later macroinventions such as electrification and mechanization. We discuss the influence of these safety-improving technologies as well as government regulations on different kinds of fatal accident rates. It is proposed that an important and overlooked source of the reduction in fatalities from certain kinds of accidents was the introduction and diffusion of a variety of safety-related technologies, none of particularly large scale.