Convict labor at the Sumitomo Besshi copper mine in Japan

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Convict labor which the Sumitomo family rounded up in order to carry charcoal from the charcoal kiln to the smelting hearth on the steep mountain paths, began in 1881 at the Besshi copper mine. When one local newspaper scooped cruelties to miners at the Takashima coal mine in 1887, the Sumitomo family was socially criticized for using convict labor at the Besshi mine. The prefectural governor of Ehime asked Sumitomo to stop it in 1888, and then abolished it in March, 1889. Officially,we can understand the abolition of convict labor at the Besshi mine as a political process. However, it is assumed that without the technical advancement and the good condition of the economy in this period, the abolition of convict labor would not have been possible. The author suggests that it was the major reason why Sumitomo accepted the prefectural governor's request to abolish it.

Keywords: Fuel; Japan; Labour; Mining Operations; Prisons; Sumitomo

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 1998

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