Traces of Nitrate: The Documentation of Historical Loss

Louise Purbrick, Xavier Ribas

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


    From the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth, British merchant houses and British speculators dominated the extraction, manufacture, transport and export of Chilean nitrate, a highly valued ingredient of fertilizers and explosives. Nitrate was intimately connected with the industrialization of both life and death as well as with the fortunes City of London and the Atacama Desert. Traces of the extraction of nitrate and its trafficking between Britain and Chile have been to a great extent either overlooked or disregarded. This paper examines the photographic residues and the archeological remains of the nitrate trade. It explores the composition of images of nitrate extraction, including the traces of mining labour, alongside the debris of broken and polluted landscapes in Latin America and Europe. It concludes with consideration of the different legacies of the monopoly capitalism of mining.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019
    EventArts of Extraction - University of Essex, Colchester, United Kingdom
    Duration: 31 Jan 201931 Jan 2019


    ConferenceArts of Extraction
    Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
    Internet address


    • Arts
    • Extractionism
    • Natural resorces
    • Globalisatipon
    • Mining


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