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Engineering inter-imperialism: American miners and the transformation of global mining, 1871–1910*

  • Stephen Tuffnell (a1)

This article examines the transnational circulation of American mine engineers between the United States, southern Africa, and the Americas in the late nineteenth century. Technology and knowledge was diffused worldwide with the circulation of American engineers who styled themselves as expert race managers as they compared the labour practices of mines across the world. The article's focus is the extension of the United States’ global footprint to South Africa, where an expatriate ‘colony’ of American engineers created a resilient form of Anglo-American inter-imperial collaboration. As they worked the Rand, American engineers made transnational comparisons of South African and North and South American mines. In the process, they led a global discussion of the efficiency of mining labour that reified white management of other races. After leaving the Rand, American engineers migrated across the globe, many to Mexico, where the interwoven networks of expert knowledge, industrial capitalism, and transnational race-making that characterized late nineteenth-century global mining followed.

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For their careful reading, critical insights, and advice, the author would like to thank Jay Sexton, Pekka Hämäläinen, Michelle Hay, and the editors and anonymous readers of the Journal of Global History. Helpful audiences at the University of Oxford, the British American Nineteenth Century Historians Conference at Rice University, and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations annual meeting shaped early versions of this article. The British Academy's Postdoctoral Research Fellowship provided research funding essential for its completion.

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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.

Stephen Tuffnell , ‘Anglo-American inter-imperialism: US expansion and the British world, c.1865–1914’, Britain and the World, 7, 2, 2014, pp. 174–195

Paul Kramer , ‘Empires, exceptions, and Anglo-Saxons: race and rule between the British and United States empires, 1880–1910’, Journal of American History, 88, 4, 2002, pp. 1327–1330

Jonathan Curry-Machado , ‘“Rich flames and hired tears”: sugar, sub-imperial agents, and the Cuban phoenix of empire’, Journal of Global History, 4, 1, 2009, pp. 33–56

Robert A. Buchannan , ‘The diaspora of British engineering’, Technology and Culture, 27, 3, 1986, pp. 501–524

John Cell , The highest stage of white supremacy: the origins of segregation in South Africa and the American South, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982

John Darwin , The empire project: the rise and fall of the British world-system, 1830–1970, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 227

Jaes Belich , Replenishing the earth: the settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo-world, 1783–1939, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 377

Kathleen H. Ochs , ‘The rise of American mining engineers: a case study of the Colorado School of Mines’, Technology and Culture, 33, 2, 1992, pp. 278–301

James Brittain and Robert McMath , ‘Engineers and the New South creed: the formation and early development of Georgia Tech’, Technology and Culture, 18, 2, 1977, pp. 175–201

Roger Burt , ‘Innovation or imitation? Technological dependency in the American nonferrous mining industry’, Technology and Culture, 41, 2, 2000, pp. 321–347

John Higginson , ‘Privileging the machines: American engineers, indentured Chinese and white workers in South Africa's deep-level gold mines, 1902–1907’, International Review of Social History 52, 1, 2007, pp. 1–34

Charles Harvey and Jon Press , ‘Overseas investment and the professional advance of British metal mining engineers, 1851–1914’, Economic History Review, 42, 1, 1989, pp. 6486

Kathryn Morse , The nature of gold: an environmental history of the Klondike gold rush, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2003

John Mason Hart , Empire and revolution: the Americans in Mexico since the Civil War, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2002, p. 152

Barbara P. Josiah , Migration, mining, and the African diaspora: Guyana in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, pp. 43–44

Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds , Drawing the global colour line: white men's countries and the international challenge of racial equality, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 49–113

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Journal of Global History
  • ISSN: 1740-0228
  • EISSN: 1740-0236
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-global-history
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