The Historical Journal

Historiographical Reviews

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES ON INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT, MINING, AND PROSTITUTION*

JULIA ANN LAITEa1 c1

a1 Memorial University of Newfoundland

ABSTRACT

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. 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.

Footnotes

* 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.