The Cornish in Latin America

The fortnightly slave muster at the Morro Velho Mine of the St John del Rey Mining Company, Brazil, outside the 'Casa Grande' in the late nineteenth century. Photograph courtesy Malcolm Jones

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New Publications

I am currently writing a new book, entitled Cornish Mineworkers in Latin America: Migration and Transnational Identity and is due to be published by Exeter University Press.

This book will be the first to cover the migration of the Cornish to Latin America and breaks new ground in that it adopts a transnational perspective on identities, links and movement. Much previous historical work on Cornish migration has tended to focus on the effects of migrants’ arrival in receiving communities. But my book is equally concerned with the less well-studied sending side of the migration continuum and offers a close range view from the migrants’ communities of origin. It is intended to be an anthropological study of how Cornish migration to Latin America was initiated, organised, and articulated with larger socio-economic processes through time, as well as an ethnographic discourse of the various consequences of international migration for those Cornish in both sending and receiving communities. More soon...

Working Papers

The papers below are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the software that allows you to view and print PDF documents, please click on the icon below to download the required free software.

A ‘Professor’ in Peru: Trevithick and the Transatlantic Migration of the Industrial Revolution (PDF Format)

Much has been written about the life and inventions of Richard Trevithick: he is without doubt, Cornwall’s most famous son. Yet, biographers and historians have presented his career in Latin America where he spent over a decade after 1816, as a failure, summed up by his penniless arrival at Hayle. However, this is to do the man an injustice. This paper adopts a different approach and concentrates instead on the significant ramifications that followed his arrival in Peru for the transatlantic relationship between Britain and Latin America in the decades that followed. It finally examines what impact Trevithick’s time in South America was to have on the place of his birth – the industrial region of Cornwall.

Creating the Cult of “Cousin Jack”: Cornish Miners in Latin America 1812-1848 and the Development of an International Mining Labour Market (PDF Format)

This essay concentrates on the pioneering exportation of metalliferous mining skills and steam technology to Latin America by Cornish miners, or 'Cousin Jacks', as they were colloquially known. In doing so it will discuss how Cornish miners established a hard won cult following in the early nineteenth century in the mines of South and Central America, a position that was by no means certain as they were seriously challenged by Ibero-American and German miners for the coveted crown of mining excellence. This essay contends that Latin America, as an early recipient of British capital and industrial technology, was the birthplace of the modern integrated global mining economy with its attendant capital and labour markets. In the expanding international mining industry Cornish miners, 'the light infantry of capital' and flag-bearers of empire, were in the vanguard. The valuable experience gained in Latin America equipped them well to dominate the global mining labour market for over a century. 

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