HistoryUniversität Innsbruck

 


Historic mining has left visible traces in theSchwazer Bergbuch Tyrolean region. In some places, the mining tradition is still alive, and in addition the awareness of these traditions is increased by recently opened mining museums. Of course, the heyday of the Tyrolean mining was already in the 15th and 16th century. The enormous silver production in Schwaz helped this place since about 1470 to notoriety and European significance: In 1523, when the production reached the peak level, not less than 15695 kg silver and thus 62% of the total silver production of the five leading European mining areas came from Schwaz.

The historical science, based mainly on the review and critical analysis of written sources, is able to contribute substantially to investigate this unprecedented boom, in particular due to the fact, that since the late Middle Ages a growing number of written documents is preserved. Especially the increased typological variety allows to examine a number of mining-related questions: For example, now books enregistering the assignment of pits are created, account books are informing about the productivity and the expenditure to maintain mining operations, numerous mining rules are illustrating the constantly changing regulatory needs, wood descriptions are giving an idea about the status of the forests, and books concerning the activities of confraternities are delivering insights into the daily lives of the miners. So compared to previous centuries far more significant informations are available, though requiring the critical analysis of the historical sciences.

In addition to issues of organizational structure, the productivity and the development of employment figures also the impact of the mining activities on the surrounding areas and the whole territory is of central importance. The housing needs of a growing number of miners changed the settlement structure, the necessity to accomodate mines and miners with operating facilities and food stimulated commerce and trade as well as the farmers were encouraged to react to the consumers needs; given the tremendous demand for timber, the dealing with this resource has to be regulated. With regard to these aspects, not only the boom phase is of interest, but just periods of stagnation and decline when adaptions and modifications are needed. Anyway, in such periods increased criticism on mining and its impact on the environment can be observed. Thanks to the growing number of written sources, the historical science is able to answer such questions with increasing precision.