Hanes gwleidyddol glöwyr De Cymru, y diwydiant a'r gymdeithas lofaol, mewn cyfnod cythryblus o argyfwng ac ymdrech.
A political history of the south Wales miners, their industry and society, in a tumultuous period of crisis and struggle.
The celebrated University of Wales Press Studies in Welsh History series, launched in 1977, still goes from strength to strength. This, its thirty-fourth title, deals with one of the most central and compelling themes in the history of modern Wales, the south Wales miners, and studies a crucial period in their history Ė the years of irreversible decline and industrial contraction between 1964 and 1985. Like so many others in this prestigious series, the study has its origins in a University of Wales Press doctoral thesis. The readerís appetite has already been whetted by the authorís scholarly contributions to academic journals during recent years.
The backbone of the work is the long series of incisive personal interviews which Dr Curtis conducted, mainly with former coal miners and NUM officials, as a key part of his doctoral studies between December 2003 and April 2004, which vitally supplement those conducted decades earlier by the South Wales Coalfield History Project. Apposite quotations are deftly woven into the text of this compelling analysis, supplemented by much dogged searching through the south Wales newspapers and a rich array of secondary sources dealing with the coal industry in south Wales and far beyond.
The authorís approach is then strictly chronological. A general survey of the political affiliations and activities of the miners of south Wales leads to a measured, instructive analysis of the large-scale pit closures which occurred during the Wilson governments of 1964Ė70. This experience fostered a spirit of intense disillusionment and a spirited conviction that only direct action and a resurgent militancy could hope to save the minersí livelihoods in future years. The resultant nationwide strike action of 1972 and 1974 against the Heath government was indeed highly successful, with the colliers of south Wales in the vanguard of the militant agitation.
Dr Curtis then focuses on the calm interlude which ensued during the second half of the 1970s Ė before the gradual, fraught build-up to the epic coal strike of 1984Ė85, spearheaded by Arthur Scargill against the second Thatcher administration. The outcome of its abject failure was the near decimation of the south Wales coal industry and the dereliction of its proud, once vibrant valley communities. The author focuses on the slow, highly reluctant return to work in the early months of 1985, an outcome born of primary poverty and destitution, the sad result of a stoppage extending for a whole tragic year.
Although Dr Curtisís account is admirably fair and balanced from beginning to end, it is not difficult to detect his overwhelming empathy with, and sympathy for, the plight of the beleaguered south Wales colliers and their families. This volume is a valuable companion to Keith Gildartís on the north Wales coal mining industry and communities published in 2001 in the same series.
The volume includes some marvellously evocative photographs, useful maps, a full bibliography of the disparate sources used, and a helpful, well ordered index. It fills a massive gap in the historiography of industrial south Wales and will undoubtedly inspire further research and publications.
J. Graham Jones
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiat‚d Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Introduction: Ďan historical mission to lead in class strugglesí
1:The Politics of the South Wales Miners
2: Closures: 1964-1970
3: Struggle: 1970-1974
4: Interlude: 1974-1979
5: Confrontation: 1979-1983
6: The Strike: 1984-1985
Ben Curtis is Research Associate at the Department of History and Welsh History at Aberystwyth University and part-time History Tutor at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, Cardiff University.
The booming coal industry of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the main reason behind the creation of modern south Wales and its miners were central to shaping the economics, politics and society of south Wales during the twentieth century. This book explores the history of these miners between 1964 and 1985, covering the concerted run-down of the coal industry under the Wilson government, the growth of minersí resistance, and the eventual defeat of the epic strike of 1984-5. Their interactions with the wider trade union movement and society during these years meant the miners were amongst the most important strategically-located sections of the British workforce during this time. The South Wales Miners is the first full-length academic study of the miners and their union in the later twentieth century, in a tumultuous period of crisis and struggle.