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Medicina y Seguridad del Trabajo

On-line version ISSN 1989-7790Print version ISSN 0465-546X

Abstract

MENENDEZ-NAVARRO, Alfredo. In the Beginning was Almadén: the Origins of Occupational Medicine in Spain. Med. segur. trab. [online]. 2014, vol.60, suppl.2, pp.42-50. ISSN 1989-7790.  http://dx.doi.org/10.4321/S0465-546X2014000600005.

This paper explores the case of the 18th-century state-owned Almadén mercury mines as main precursor of the emergence of medical concerns with workers' health and the establishment of a systematic medical approach to work-related diseases in our country. This was largely a product of the growing influence of mercantilist theories, which assigned an increasingly important economic value to health, the unhealthy nature of mercury mining work and the extraordinarily important role played by Almadén in the overall Spanish economy. Almadén became the source of the most original empirical medical research on dangerous trades carried out in the Hispanic World. It also provided a propitious space for the legitimisation of new knowledge and practices related to the health and illness of workers, reserving new competencies for healthcare professionals. Likewise, medicine began to fulfil a normative function in the work setting, modelling the values of the workers and regulating their behaviour patterns in accordance with the requirements of the productive order. The study is based on an analysis of the main Spanish medical literature on this issue and on a reconstruction of the care and preventive practices developed in Almadén mercury mines.

Keywords : History of Occupational Medicine; Mining; Mercury poisoning; Occupational Health.

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