The South Wales Miners 1964-1985

  • Ben Curtis

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    In May 1981, at the South Wales Area NUM annual conference, Area president Emlyn Williams addressed the delegates and told them that the south Wales miners 'are associated in people's minds with resistance and struggles ... There is no doubt in my mind that miners have an historical mission to lead in class struggles'.1 This statement expressed the conscious self-image of the South Wales Area and was also a reaffirmation of an important historical trend. During the twentieth century the miners were generally considered to be amongst the most militant sections of the British labour movement, with South Wales very much in the forefront of this. This thesis examines both how and why the south Wales miners held this prominent 'vanguard' role.

    My research explores the history of the south Wales miners between 1964 and 1985, examining the interrelationship of coal, community and politics through the prism of their Union. The period covers the concerted run-down of the coal industry under the Wilson government, the growth of miners' resistance and the brief prospect of a secure future for them, through to eventual NUM defeat in 1985. In this socio- political history, the emphasis is on the dynamics of the relations between colliery lodges, the South Wales Area and the national NUM, the response of the Area to industrial and political developments, and also the impact of this upon its relationship with the wider labour movement.

    In many respects however, labour history is not currently 'fashionable'. The decline of the densely-unionised heavy industries, together with the global hegemony of neo-liberalism, has led many to believe that this subject is no longer relevant - even though the working class has not disappeared just because more people in Britain now work in call centres and supermarkets than in collieries or steelworks. Nevertheless, as Mcllroy and Campbell point out, '[t]he [current] debility of labour studies ... have to be related to the defeats and the consequent sense of demoralisation the labour movement has suffered from, as well as state policies and academic responses to them'.
    Date of AwardFeb 2007
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorAndrew Croll (Supervisor)


    • Coal miners
    • Wales - South Wales
    • Mineral resources

    Cite this