Laying the Foundations
A history and archaeology of the Trent Valley sand and gravel industry
by Tim Cooper
The aggregates industry is perhaps the quintessential industry of the 20th century, quite literally shaping our world, but its history and archaeology have arguably been neglected. In this ground-breaking new book, the author Tim Cooper attempts to redress the balance with an in-depth but accessible study of the sand and gravel industry of the Trent Valley in the English Midlands.
The book explores an industry at the heart of the economic development of modern Britain. It sets the emerging industry in the context of the Trent Valley region and the tensions between the competing requirements of mineral extraction and agriculture. Drawing heavily on government documents (many newly released under the Freedom of Information Act) which reveal the machinations of post-war planning policy, the archives of major companies and oral testimony of former workers, the author charts the growth of the industry in the 20th century.
The history of the industry went hand in hand with the growing use of concrete which has shaped the world in which we live. The book begins with the geology of the region and the earliest use of the resource. It explores technological developments such as the invention of ‘Ready-Mix Concrete’, and the impact of war, the motorway building programme, and housing demands on the industry. The author then explains the extraction process in detail, illustrated by case studies, and considers the environmental impact of the industry on the landscape. The book concludes with the oral testimony of those who have worked in the industry.
This book will appeal to a variety of readers, from the workers themselves and their families, and the residents of the Midlands, to archaeologists, planners, and social and industrial historians.
It is arguable that no other industry has had a greater influence on the creation of the world we inhabit – that which emerged in the second half of the 20th century – than sand and gravel extraction.
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