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Coal and Community

About the Project

'On Behalf of the People: Work, Community, and Class in the British Coal Industry 1947-1994’ is an Arts and Humanities Research Coucil funded project into British Coal industry between nationalisation in 1947 and privatisation in 1994. Kellingley, the last deep mine in Britain, closed in 2015 making a re-evaluation of the coal industry timely. 

Image of miners

This is a collaborative project between historians based at the University of Wolverhampton and it draws upon the experience, knowledge and expertise of project leader Professor Keith Gildart, who spent seven years as an underground coal miner in Wales: more information about the project team.

The 'On Behalf of the People' project takes a fresh approach to the history of the British coalfield from nationalisation in 1947 and prviatisation in 1994. It explores the development of the industry, its workplace cultures, industrial identities, politics and individual and collective experiences.‌

The project will answer these questions by looking at the national and coalfield levels through a detailed examination of eight pits: Bickershaw Colliery (Lancashire, 1830–1992), Easington Colliery (Durham, 1899–1993), Prince of Wales Colliery (Yorkshire, 1860–2002), Annesley-Bentinck Colliery (Nottinghamshire, 1865–2000), Markham Colliery (Derbyshire, 1882–1993), Barony Colliery (Ayrshire, 1910–1989), Tower Colliery (Cynon Valley, 1864–2008), and Point of Ayr Colliery (Flintshire, 1890–1996).

The project will be based on extensive work in archives and a comprehensive oral history project. Key to the project is collaborating with former miners, pit deputies, colliery managers, and mining communities: more information about how you can be involved.

The General Federation of Trade Unions and The National Mining Museums of England, Scotland and Wales are partners on the project: more information about our project partners. They will assist with ensuring that the results of this research get distributed in former coal-mining communities and beyond. This website will contain summaries of the research and resources for schools. At the conclusion of the project, a travelling exhibition based on this research will tour the eight former mining communities. 

Image of coal cottages with washing outside

Amongst the themes to be explored by the project will be: the political evolution of public ownership and its local social/political impact; occupational culture and identity; the tensions between divergent industrial relations cultures and their impact on organisations; the changing nature of underground work; gender relations; community fragmentation; deindustrialisation; memory; heritage; and the resilience of occupational and class identities.

Chronologically, the project will shed new light on key moments in the history of the coal industry such as the debates around the nature of public ownership, the industrial disputes of 1972, 1974 and 1984/5 and the subsequent closure of all of the nation's deep mines in the first two decades of the twenty-first century. It will gauge the impact of these events on miners/ deputies/ managers, their families, and the wider community in which the collieries were located. The project represents a significant reappraisal of the importance of the coal industry in shaping the identities, politics, and cultures of industrial localities in post-war Britain.