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A view from below: tradition, experience and nationalism in the South Wales coalfield, 1937-1957

By Kim Howells


This thesis attempts to place a halt sign before the glib\ud generalisations which so frequently are employed to describe what are termed "traditionally militant" workforces. It focuses on the mines and communities of the South Wales coalfield during the period 1937 to 1957 and examines the way in which issues at the coalface combined regularly with an inherited and often unique set of local circumstances to confound the directives and analyses of the central executives of the political parties and of the trade unions. It concerns itself primarily with the symbiotic relationship which existed between the politics of the pit and those of the miners' elected leaders.\ud The work is divided into four chronological parts. The first\ud sets out to construct an image of the coalmining industry in South Wales as it attempted to recover from the enormous setbacks which it suffered during the market depression of the early l930s. The second deals with the war years and their immediate aftermath; the third with the onset of nationalisation, and the fourth with the years of Conservative government from 1951 until the sharp downturn in the demand for coal in 1957/58.\ud The records of the South Wales miners' lodges and those of the union's area and national executives provided my main sources of information. These were greatly supplemented by the detailed reports of the Ministry of Labour's Industrial Relations Officers as well as by the political and industrial columns of local and national newspapers and trade journals. Much valuable material was found amongst the mass of information published by the National Coal Board after l97 and, wherever possible, I have made extensive use of the large and growing collection of tape-recorded oral testimony housed at the South Wales Miners' Library in Swansea

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