3 out of 4 stars
Share This Review
Mining is a complex, delicate job. There’s a science to it that requires knowledge of various fields. This includes geology, chemistry and physics. However, there’s also a rich socio-economic history to it that has shaped mines and miners into what they are today.
Sean Daly is more than familiar with these aspects, expanding on them in From the Erzgebirge to Potosi: A History of Geology and Mining Since the 1500's, written with reference to the work of Georgius Agricola. Not only does he describe the mining process in great detail in this book, but he also explores the history behind the most well-known figures of the field, including Agricola and William “Strata" Smith. Additionally, he provides context for the state of mining today through his look at the history of workers' rights in Mexico and Germany.
I’m giving this book 3 out of 4 stars. I wanted to give it a full rating, but there are so many minor punctuation errors that I had to take a star off for that. It’s an excellent book that goes into detail about the history and science of mining, yet it doesn’t become so technical as to lose the reader.
From the very beginning, this book caught my interest. Daly has a style that’s both vivid and educational, but it doesn’t get so lost in the details as to become overly didactic. For a book like this that relies on a lot of information being related at once, that was a definite plus. It made it easier to read and digest what was being said without getting lost.
Furthermore, his inclusion of both illustrations and photographs helped to shed light on the subject. It’s one thing to read a description of mining processes and geological features, but another thing entirely to actually see them. The former can only do so much, while the latter gives you an idea of what you’re reading about.
The above reasons are why I gave it my rating, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the aspects of the book I didn’t like. The organisation, for example, left something to be desired. While I liked reading about the scientific processes behind mining, I would prefer not to have it in between the biographies of men like Agricola and the history of strikes in Potosi and Erzgebirge. This made it harder to appreciate the work that Daly puts into making sure it’s understandable to the average layperson.
I also didn’t like that the illustrations were often placed at the end of the chapter instead of where they’re referenced. By the time I got to them, I would have forgotten the references that were made to each figure.
That being said, I think this is a good book for anyone with interests in history and geology, and I definitely recommend it to them. It’s detailed, but not incomprehensibly so, and you can tell that Daly has a passion for the subject, in addition to his own involvement in the field.
Happy reading, everyone!
From the Erzgebirge to Potosi
View: on Bookshelves | on Amazon