Together, South Wales, Cornwall and the Midlands were the copper powerhouses of the world and London became the capital of doing business in international copper trading.
Copper research blog
History of Copper is a blog devoted to exploring and sharing a wealth of information, reviews, think-pieces and news on copper and its heritage. It is connected to a new research project being conducted by historian and heritage consultant Dr. Tehmina Goskar informally entitled ‘Biographies of British copper: The heritage of a global commodity, c.1700-1980.’
The blog is the project’s sounding board but will also feature posts on all sorts of subjects related to copper including contemporary issues relating to its geology, mining, processing and associated industries, smithing and crafting, products, social and economic impact and cultural value.
About Biographies of British Copper
This research project examines the missing link between statistically-based economic studies of global heavy industry and very localised understandings of industrial heritage sites.
Neither the study of mine outputs nor steam engines tells us why copper was in demand, how the industry gauged and met it, and how this changed over time. This project emphasises the stories of the commodity itself and looks for connections between people and places through copper.
Britain was at the heart of the historic world copper trade from the late eighteenth century until the end of the nineteenth century. Together, South Wales, particularly Swansea, Cornwall and the Midlands (centred at Birmingham) were the copper powerhouses of the world and London became the capital of doing business in international copper trading–a position the city retains today.
The history of copper is one of Britain’s hidden ‘Greats’
From the mine to the manufactory
We don’t know much about how business was actually done and few studies really look in detail at the complex processes that were involved in extracting and manufacturing copper and the products that drove global demand for the red metal.
This is a material-driven project that aims to understand material, processes, supply chains and cultures of commerce. It will examine business archives and objects (e.g. from museum collections) to reconstruct the supply chain, discover what affected commercial negotiations, reveal innovations in manufacturing and craft technology and find out how this influenced the metalworking skills of entire families.
This project will culminate in a scholarly, but publicly accessible, study on the history of copper in Britain.
This project is being undertaken on an independent basis. Funds are actively being sought to assist with research travel expenses, time off work to undertake research and analysis and to support publication of findings and share information.
Background research was possible through a postdoctoral research post on the ESRC Global and Local Worlds of Welsh Copper Project at Swansea University.
Current research into business archives in Bangor University Archives has been funded by the Glamorgan County History Trust.
Invitation for collaboration
This website is edited and authored by Dr. Tehmina Goskar and the project is being undertaken in her capacity as (honorary) Research Associate at Swansea University. Guest posts and other contributions are warmly invited and any there is an open invitation for proposals for collaboration. This site is completely non-profitmaking and hosted by the editor.
If you have any comments or contributions, you are welcome and encouraged to post them here.
Banner image credits: Sincere thanks to the Copper Development Association UK and Paramount (propeller), Swansea City Library (The Cambrian), Bangor University Archives (Ticketing document extract) and Vin Callcut (Muntz brass ashtray with Gujarati inscription). The remainder (site of 27 Upper Thames Street, London, HQ of Pascoe Grenfell and Sons; statue of John Henry Vivian, Swansea; Cornish turquoise (a copper ore), Newlyn copper from Old Pilchard Works, Copper Day 2011 tour outside Morfa Laboratory) are my own images.