Mercury, Mining, and Empire

Mercury, Mining, and Empire

The Human and Ecological Cost of Colonial Silver Mining in the Andes
Nicholas A. Robins
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/25/2011
Format: Hardback 14 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-35651-2
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On the basis of an examination of the colonial mercury and silver production processes and related labor systems, Mercury, Mining, and Empire explores the effects of mercury pollution in colonial Huancavelica, Peru, and Potosí, in present-day Bolivia. The book presents a multifaceted and interwoven tale of what colonial exploitation of indigenous peoples and resources left in its wake. It is a socio-ecological history that explores the toxic interrelationships between mercury and silver production, urban environments, and the people who lived and worked in them. Nicholas A. Robins tells the story of how native peoples in the region were conscripted into the noxious ranks of foot soldiers of proto-globalism, and how their fate, and that of their communities, was—and still is—chained to it.

Author Bio

Nicholas A. Robins is a lecturer in the Department of History at North Carolina State University. He is author of Native Insurgencies and the Genocidal Impulse in the Americas (IUP, 2005) and editor (with Adam Jones) of Genocides by the Oppressed: Subaltern Genocide in Theory and Practice (IUP, 2009), among other works.


“This is interdisciplinary history at its best. A path-breaking study that . . . will certainly be a 'must-read' book.”
 — David Cahill, University of New South Wales

“An astonishing history of the destruction of colonial Indian communities in Peru and Bolivia. Robins has woven deep archival research with modern science to identify and interpret the consequences of silver production and toxic exposure to mercury. This is trans-disciplinary research at its very best.”
 — John Vandenberg, Duke University

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Table of Contents

1. Amalgamating an Empire
2. Toxic Travails: Mining in Huancavelica
3. Blood Silver
4. Connecting the Drops: The Wider Human and Environmental Costs
5. From Corrosion to Collapse: The Destruction of Native Communities

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