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So right now I've been tasked to come up with a world for a story that centers around what we could probably describe as post-civil war era. Coal is a resource needed for fueling machines and modes of industry, but it can only be mined with the use of slaves. The only way to get slaves however is through warfare as the offspring of slaves are conscripted into the army without ever knowing their parents, which brings up the heat and central plot of the story. Does this economy make sense and can it hold?

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  • $\begingroup$ "but it can only be mined with the use of slaves" - are there any reasons for that? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Jan 17 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ The work is considered lowly, the conditions horrifying, the mining industry not wanting to pay people, and it's monopolized so no competition. Slaves are reserved for the wealthy as servants or used up until they die. Slaves do not exclusively work in coal, but its where the majority go--like the cotton fields of the south. $\endgroup$ – Francis Moon Jan 17 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ @FrancisMoon in the USA slaves were not used in the mines or railroads BECAUSE they were slaves. People didn't want to risk having to buy another slave when you could just replace a worker for nothing. $\endgroup$ – Richard U Jan 17 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ Slaves were used in mining for non-precious ores, like coal and iron. I believe a company working on a mass scale could enforce the labor of potentially thousands in a single location. Free people can join the mining industry, but only as enforcers and collection runners. $\endgroup$ – Francis Moon Jan 17 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Worldbuilding, Francis Moon! If you have a moment, please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about the site. You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Here is a meta post on the culture and style of Worldbuilding.SE, just to help you understand our scope and methods, and how we do things here. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – Gryphon Jan 17 at 19:09
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This would be unsustainable, as you'd have slaves at every critical point of your economy. With your coal mining slaves being deprived of their children, they would have literally nothing to lose by triggering massive explosions in the mines (Coal dust is EXTREMELY explosive). Which would cripple your economy, devastate your ability to make war, and end your source of conscription.

Morale in your army would be low as well, as they would have no family that they knew about back home. Nobody to defend. This would also tax loyalty.

This could work out only if there were a way to move up out of slavery and if the soldiers DID know their parents. (Fight to free mom and dad!).

As it is, I don't see this working for long.

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  • $\begingroup$ Mining slaves essentially don't have children. The infants wouldn't survive the pollutants. I probably should have reformed my wording a bit. No, the children conscripted move out of slavery and join the ranks as soldiers to earn their freedom. They could purchase their parents, if they so choose, but you have to be free in order use currency or have any purchasing power.Keep in mind they are recruited at a young age so that they wouldn't have a longing to go home. Plus slave children are not the only ones in the army. They're just the conscript force to help fill in the ranks. $\endgroup$ – Francis Moon Jan 17 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ As I remember slaves have often been used as miners; one thing the South complained about before the Civil War was California becoming a free state in 1850, eliminating the potential market for slave miners there. I have often shuddered at the thought of the economic devastation for the North if the South started large scale slave coal mining to power large scale manufacturing using slaves. Many Islamic countries used massive armies of slaves and ex slaves successfully. $\endgroup$ – M. A. Golding Jan 18 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ @M.A.Golding yes, but salt and gold does not go BOOOOM, coal does. $\endgroup$ – Richard U Jan 18 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ "Morale in your army would be low as well, as they would have no family that they knew about back home. Nobody to defend. This would also tax loyalty." No, it would encourage loyalty the army. You need to read about the Jannisaries. Also, one of the great realizations about the military which only became accepted in the last century or two is that soldiers don't fight for country or family: they fight for their buddies. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Jan 19 at 0:51

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