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The South Wales Miners Federation, Miners' Lung and the Instrumental Use of Expertise, 1900-1950

Michael Bloor
Social Studies of Science
Vol. 30, No. 1 (Feb., 2000), pp. 125-140
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/285772
Page Count: 16
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The South Wales Miners Federation, Miners' Lung and the Instrumental Use of Expertise, 1900-1950
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Abstract

Oral history materials from the South Wales Miners' Library are used to examine the communal understandings of, and collective responses to, the scourge of Miners' Lung (pneumoconiosis) in the 1920s and 1930s. Lay epidemiology in mining communities attributed an aetiological role to coaldust at a time when many experts believed miners' pulmonary disease to be bronchitic, or to be silica-induced. In their efforts to secure compensation claims for their members, union officials instrumentally used scientific expertise in a variety of forms: they contributed to epidemiological evidence; they lobbied for more government-funded research; they 'bought' experts; they duped expert witnesses; and they made sophisticated instrumental appeals to the supposed independence of favourable expert judgements. Eventually, miners' situated 'local knowledge' became scientific orthodoxy, a success story which may be associated with the class-conscious miners' 'bump of irreverence' about expert knowledge, and with the divided character of the expert core-set, sections of which were receptive to miners' 'local knowledge' claims.

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