Hookworm in the Ruhr Area
Environment, Health and Social Networks in the Mining Community at the Time of the German Empire
A miner's work involved serious hazards to life and health particularly in underground mining operations, as is probably best reflected by an increased accident risk. Moreover, new health risks specific to a miner's work arose when the mining operations in the Ruhr area were industrialised from the middle of the 19th century, such as involuntary eye movement (nystagmus), black lung disease (silicosis) and hookworm infections (anchylostomiasis). Using the example of the hookworm epidemic around 1900 the article describes the development of a specific medical actor-network focusing on the health, hygiene and body of the miner as well as on his mining environment. Allgemeiner Knappschaftsverein zu Bochum (miners' mutual benefit society of Bochum) was one of the main actors in the medical system implemented for the industrialised mining operations in the Ruhr area. The article analyses the society's response to the hookworm epidemic as well as its flexibility in the situation in a historical context, its methodological approach being based on the concepts of the actor-network theory (ANT) and body history.