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Prostitution has been linked by many historians and social commentators to the industrial development and capitalism of the modern age, and there is no better example of this than the prostitution that developed in mining regions from the mid-nineteenth century. Using research on mining-related prostitution, and other social histories of mining communities where prostitution inevitably forms a part, large or small, of the historian's analysis of the mining region, this article will review, contrast, and compare prostitution in various mining contexts, in different national and colonial settings. From the American and Canadian gold rushes in the mid- and late nineteenth century, to the more established mining frontiers of the later North American West, to the corporate mining towns of Chile in the interwar years, to the copper and gold mines of southern Africa and Kenya in the first half of the twentieth century, commercial sex was present and prominent as the mining industry and mining communities developed.1 Challenging the simplistic images and stereotypes of prostitution that are popularly associated with the American mining frontier, historians have shown that prostitution's place in mining communities, and its connection to industrial development, was as complex as it was pervasive and enduring.

Corresponding author
Department of History, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St John's, Newfoundland, A1C
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The author would like to thank Drs John Sandlos and Arn Keeling of the Mining and Northern Development Research Group at Memorial University for their valuable comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

George Chauncey Jr, ‘The locus of reproduction: women's labour in the Zambian Copperbelt, 1927–1953’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 7 (1981), pp. 135–64

Patrick Harries , ‘Symbols and sexuality: culture and identity on early Witwatersrand gold mines’, Gender and History, 2 (1990), pp. 318–36

Thomas Miller Klubock , ‘Working-class masculinity, middle-class morality, and labour politics in the Chilean copper mines’, Journal of Social History, 30 (1996), pp. 435–63

Gary Kynoch , ‘Marashea on the mines: economic, social and criminal networks on the South African gold mines, 1947–1999’, Journal of South African Studies, 26 (2000), pp. 79103

Jane L. Parpart , ‘The household and the mine shaft: gender and class struggles on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1926–1964’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 13 (1986), pp. 3656

T. Dunbar Moodie , Vivienne Ndatshe , and British Sibuyi , ‘Migrancy and male sexuality on the South African gold mines’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 14 (1988), pp. 228–56

Jane L. Parpart , ‘“Where is your mother?”: gender, urban marriage, and colonial discourse on the Zambian Copperbelt, 1924–1945’, International Journal of African Historical Studies, 27 (1994), pp. 241–71

Laurie Mercier and Jaclyn Gier , ‘Reconsidering women and gender in mining’, History Compass, 5 (2007), pp. 9971001.

Timothy J. Gilfoyle , ‘Prostitutes in history: from parables of pornography to metaphors of modernity’, American Historical Journal, 104 (1999), pp. 117–41

Elizabeth B. van Heyningen , ‘The social evil in the Cape Colony 1868–1902: prostitution and the contagious diseases acts’, Journal of South African Studies, 10 (1984), pp. 170–97

Peter Bailey , ‘Parasexuality and glamour: the Victorian barmaid as cultural prototype’, Gender and History, 2 (1990), pp. 148–73.

Keith Breckenridge , ‘The allure of violence: men, race and masculinity on the South African goldmines, 1900–1950’, Journal of Southern African Studies, 24 (1998), pp. 669–93, 676.

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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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