Towards a Comparative History of Coalfield Societies
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Few areas of labour history have received as much attention as the coal industry, with miners often finding themselves at the centre of studies on working-class political and industrial history. Yet whilst much has been written about the struggles of miners and their unions in particular countries, their national confrontations and political organization, much less work has been done on the regional communities and how they related both to the national and international picture. The central theme of this volume is to transcend such over-arching national models and to focus instead on local coal mining societies which can then be compared and contrasted to similar communities elsewhere. In so doing the book is able to tackle a number of familiar labour history themes in a more nuanced way, exploring issues of political activism and class relationships from the perspectives of gender, ethnicity, race and specific localized cultural traditions. As the chapters in this volume illustrate, such an approach can offer rich and often surprising conclusions, in many cases challenging the accepted notion of miners as the vanguard of militant working-class political activism. Adopting a regional approach that compares coalfield communities from five continents, this volume reflects coalfield experiences on a truly global scale. By looking at what made communities unique as well as what they shared in common, a much fuller understanding of the workplace, neighbourhood, family, identity and political organization is possible. Underlining the strong connections between politics, community and identity, this work emphasizes the challenges and opportunities available to labour historians, pushing forward the boundaries of the discipline in new and exciting ways.
Table of Contents
Contents: Introduction, Stefan Berger; So many cases but so little comparison: problems of comparing mineworkers, Andrew Taylor; Two faces of King Coal: the impact of historiographical traditions on comparative history in the Ruhr and South Wales, Stefan Berger and Neil Evans; The myth of the radical miner, Dick Geary; Cameras in the coalfields: photographs as evidence for comparative coalfield history, Janet Wells Greene; A mining film without a disaster is like a Western without a shoot-out: representations of coal mining communities in feature films, Bert Hogenkamp; Modernity or 'slaves of the lamp'? Independence and control in two state coal mining communities in Victoria, Australia, Meredith Fletcher; A comparison between the Richmond coal basin and Pennsylvania's anthracite fields: slave labour, free labour and the political economy, Sean Patrick Adams; Nigerian coal miners, protest and gender, 1914-49: the Iva Valley mining community, Carolyn A. Brown; Everyone black? Ethnic, class and gender identities at street level in a Belgian mining town, 1930-50, Leen Beyers; Outsiders: trade union responses to Polish and Italian coal miners in two British coalfields, Stephen Catterall and Keith Gildart; The struggle for Polish autonomy and the question of integration in the Ruhr and Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1880-1914, Brian McCook; Networking among Welsh coal miners in 19th-century America, Ronald L. Lewis; Gender and ethnicity in Japan's Chikuho coalfield, W. Donald Smith; Coal mining, foreign workers and mine safety: steps towards European integration, 1946-85, René Leboutte; A moral economy, an isolated mass and paternalized migrants: Transvaal colliery strikes, 1925-49, Peter Alexander; Trade union development in the Ruhr and South Wales, 1890-1914, Leighton James; Coalfield leaders, trade unionism and communist politics: exploring Arthur Horner and Abe Moffat, John McIlroy and Alan Campbell; Index.
Professor Stefan Berger, Dr Andy Croll and Norman LaPorte are all from the University of Glamorgan, UK.
'These essays represent solid work...Recommended.’ Choice ’Overall, this volume is a worthy addition to the historiographical field. Each of its constituent contributions underline the connections and continuous interactions between miners' politics (whether class-oriented or not), community and identity, thereby highlighting the distinctive historical processes within each coalfield whilst acknowledging the existence of points of comparison between them. It deserves to be read by anyone interested in studying coal-mining history.’ Labour History Review