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Silicosis: A World History

by Paul-Andre Rosental Johns Hopkins University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 296 pages
AU$105.00 NZ$108.70
Product Status: Available in Approx 14 days
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Despite the common perception that "black lung" has been relegated to the dustbin of history, silicosis remains a crucial public health problem that threatens millions of people around the world. This painful and incurable chronic disease, still present in old industrial regions, is now expanding rapidly in emerging economies around the globe. Most industrial sectors - including the metallurgical, glassworking, foundry, stonecutting, building, and tunneling industries - expose their workers to lethal crystalline silica dust. Dental prosthodontists are also at risk, as are sandblasters, pencil factory workers in developing nations, and anyone who handles concentrated sand squirt to clean oil tanks, build ships, or fade blue jeans.


In Silicosis, eleven experts argue that silicosis is more than one of the most pressing global health concerns today - it is an epidemic in the making. Essays explain how the understanding of the disease has been shaken by new medical findings and technologies, developments in industrializing countries, and the spread of the disease to a wide range of professions beyond coal mining. Examining the global reactions to silicosis, the authors trace the history of the disease and show how this occupational health hazard first came to be recognized as well as the steps that were necessary to deal with it at that time.


Adopting a global perspective, Silicosis offers comparative insights into a variety of different medical and political strategies to combat silicosis. It also analyzes the importance of transnational processes - carried on by international organizations and NGOs and sparked by waves of migrant labor - which have been central to the history of silicosis since the early twentieth century. Ultimately, by bringing together historians and physicians from around the world, Silicosis pioneers a new collective method of writing the global history of disease. Aimed at legal and public health scholars, physicians, political economists, social scientists, historians, and all readers concerned by labor and civil society movements in the contemporary world, this book contains lessons that will be applicable not only to people working on combating silicosis but also to people examining other occupational diseases now and in the future.


Contributors: Alberto Baldasseroni, Francesco Carnevale, Éric Geerkens, Martin Lengwiler, Gerald Markowitz, Jock McCulloch, Joseph Melling, Julia Moses, Paul-André Rosental, David Rosner, Bernard Thomann


Introduction: Why Silicosis?
Paul-André Rosental
Chapter 1 Why Is Silicosis So Important?
Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner
Chapter 2: The Genesis and Development of the Scientific Concept of Pulmonary Silicosis during the Nineteenth Century
Alberto Baldasseroni and Francesco Carnevale
Chapter 3: Johannesburg and Beyond: Silicosis as a Transnational and Imperial Disease (1900–1940)
Jock McCulloch and Paul-André Rosental, with Joe Melling
Chapter 4: The Politics of Recognition and Its Limitations: Legislating on Silicosis in the First Half of the Twentieth Century—a National or Transnational Process?
Martin Lengwiler, Julia Moses, Bernard Thomann with Joseph Melling
Chapter 5: Silicosis and "Silicosis": Minimizing Compensation Costs, or Why Do Occupational Diseases Cost So Little
Paul-André Rosental and Bernard Thomann
Chapter 6: Silica or coal? Design and Implementation of Dust Prevention in the collieries in Western Economies (circa 1930–1980)
Eric Geerkens
Conclusion: Silica, Silicosis and Occupational Health in the Globalized World of the Twenty-First Century
Francesco Carnevale, Paul-André Rosental and Bernard Thomann

"Paul-Andr+¬ Rosental's edited collection Silicosis: A World History provides a full and nuanced understanding of the emergence of the concept of silicosis as an occupational disease... This is a comprehensive story of silicosis, dating back to the 1800s. It provides health practitioners, social historians, and scholars with a fascinating account of the discovery of the disease, the attempts of the mining companies to control and manage it (and, in some cases, hide it), and the people who cared enough to dedicate their lives to finding strategies for prevention and treatment... The authors have successfully imparted the history of silicosis beyond a narrow medical perspective, by acknowledging the strong influence of social forces on disease. In doing so, they have developed a framework for understanding responses to a range of other exposures such as asbestos and tobacco smoke."

Paul-André Rosental is a professor of contemporary history at Sciences Po and a fellow scholar at the Institut National d’Études Démographiques. He is the author of Destins de l’eugénisme and a coauthor of La Santé au travail: 1880–2006.