Revisiting the history of the British coal industry: the politics of legacy, memory and heritage

Keith Gildart, Andrew Perchard, Ben Curtis, Grace Millar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper revisits the history of the British coal industry in the context of deindustrialisation, ruptures in electoral politics, and attempts by former miners to preserve a mining past. Methodologically it draws on an oral history project that involved over 100 participants in England, Scotland and Wales. The life stories conveyed by the former miners provide entry points to various aspects of the industrial, social and cultural life of coal communities. The specific focus here is on the ways in which the miners themselves are striving to create and curate their own stories and experiences through localheritage projects in the town of Leigh in north west England and the former mining villages of the north Wales coast. The interviews are indicative of the sense of the isolation they continue to experience in the contemporary economic context of deindustrialisation and challenges to their sense of class, community and nation. Tensions between former miners and the wider social and political culture of their communities hinge on narratives and histo- ries of the 1984/5 miners’ strike. Heritage projects developed in both localities have become battlegrounds for what kind of history should be presented to the public, where memorials should be located, and which memories and experiences should be preserved. Miners who took part in the strike understandably want to centre their histories and narratives through the lens of 1984/5, while those who continued to work through the dispute argue that it should be given a more marginal position in commemoration and heritage. The interviews offer more complex read- ings of the social and cultural politics of the coal industry and challenge some of the prevailing orthodoxies in the historiography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-411
Number of pages5
JournalWaseda RILAS Journal
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2020


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