Laurie Flynn's papers on the asbestos industry span the period 1893-2005 and contain information primarily on the occupational health hazards posed by asbestos. This interest is centred on the activities of Cape Asbestos Company Ltd (and all corresponding names including shell entities) as well as the company's overseas subsidiaries.
There are 4 main series:
- mining in South Africa, 1938-2005
- asbestos litigation in North America, 1934-2005
- asbestos in the UK, 1953-2005
- Cape Asbestos corporate papers, 1893-2000
The focus of the collection is on employer negligence concerning health and safety, as argued in compensation lawsuits brought against the company and its subsidiaries.
Access to the wealth of business and legal papers brought to light primarily through lawsuits led Flynn to question whether multinational enterprises are as progressive as some commentators (notably business historians) have made out. The depositions, affidavits and court exhibits contained in this collection illuminate the role played by corporations and their representatives (in particular company medics and corporate lawyers) in suppressing scientific evidence concerning the risks of asbestos exposure. The Flynn papers also illustrate the lengths to which Cape Asbestos’ legal advisers went to create complex and confusing company structures in order to distance the parent company from liability ("corporate veil").
The collection includes some of Flynn’s notebooks and other background research materials for journalistic projects (among them extensive interviews with South African miners and Glasgow laggers), scripts and transcripts for documentaries, press cuttings, scientific literature, and correspondence with health and safety experts, medical specialists, environmental consultants, tort lawyers and asbestos ban campaigners.
In addition to documenting Flynn’s sustained interest in the workings of multinational asbestos enterprise, the collection also includes a little material relating to gold and diamond mining and the medical impact of atomic testing.