People like us: historical geographies of industrial-environmental crisis at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

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Abstract

This paper contributes to a growing body of literature on the historical geographies of extraction. It develops a critique of industrial heritage through an account of North Bloomfield California, a settlement within the boundaries of Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, and home to what was, in the years leading up to 1884, the largest and richest hydraulic gold mine in the world. I use archived fragments from two people who lived and worked in North Bloomfield to undercut the grand narratives of environmental conquest that still tend to undergird industrial heritage rubrics. The places given over to commemorate key moments in the development of our industrial society provide crucial orientation for contemporary environmental decision making. I demonstrate how a more intimate and nuanced approach to the industrial past through ancillary stories that foreground everyday encounters with nature can be used to challenge the soothing plotlines of technological genius, dignified suffering, social progress and enlightened restraint that so often frame public histories of extraction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-24
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Volume50
Early online date16 Jun 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2015

Keywords

  • Environmental crisis
  • Industrial heritage
  • hydraulic mining
  • storytelling

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