Migration of European Miners in Early Modern Times
The essay tries to outline the research work that has been done on the issue of miners' migration in central Europe during the early modern period (ca. 1500-1800). It will focus on employed miners and mining workers, excluding employers and questions of technological transfer. After a brief introduction, which sums up mining migration during the Middle Ages, the article discusses forms, aspects and motives of migration in the early modern period and concludes with two case studies of organised labour migration.
Although work in early modern mining was substantially determined by mobility, mining migration hasn't been a topic of recent historiographical research. This seems actually quite remarkable, but might be a consequence of a general lack of sources on migration, motives and the origins of miners. While there are numerous studies on early 16th century mining, the subsequent period, which was interpreted as the decline of pre-modern mining in Central Europe, received far less attention, leaving large gaps in research - especially in respect of social history. So by now only preliminary (and partial) insights into mining migration are possible, but they provide significant information on socioeconomic aspects and mentalities of early modern labour migrants. Nevertheless, systematic and - above all - empirical treatment of this issue will be indispensable in future.