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The South Wales Miners 1947-95

Level 1 (CQFW Level 4), 10 Credits.


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This course charts the turbulent history of the south Wales miners in the later twentieth century, a period which saw the nationalisation of their industry in 1947, a sweeping closure programme in the 1960s, and major strikes in 1972, 1974 and 1984-5, after which their defeat heralded the effective demise of deep-mining in Wales.

Syllabus content

  1. Introduction

An overview of what will feature in the course and the aims and intentions of the module, together with a discussion of the reasons why coalfield society and the south Wales miners remain topics worthy of discussion despite the decline of the industry.

  1. The Welsh Miner

A viewing of the second half of the recent DVD The Welsh Miner: the History of Miners and Mining in Wales, which examines events in the coalfield in the twentieth century, followed by a discussion of some of the issues that it raises.

  1. An overview of the south Wales coalfield

The legacy of Depression and war: the south Wales coalfield in 1945; the continued importance of coal to the south Wales economy during this period; post-war trends towards industrial diversification in south Wales; demographic change in the coalfield; comparing the contrasting situations in the coalfield in 1947 and 1995

  1. ‘The golden age of mining’ – nationalisation and the 1950s

The state of the mining industry by 1945; the nationalisation set-up; miners’ reaction to nationalisation; how did nationalisation change the operation of the industry?
The 1950s: the ‘maximum output’ phase – mining and the post-war recovery; miners and popular culture in south Wales; the rise of oil and the threat to coal; the re-emergence of rank and file militancy.

  1. Pit closures – the 1960s

Acceleration of the pit closure programme; the manpower drift and the contemporary economic context; the NUM’s plan for the stabilisation of the industry; the growth of the ‘unofficial movement’ and rank and file opposition to pit closures in south Wales; the ‘surfacemen’s strike’.
Mechanisation and technological innovation; consequences of changes to wage structure (the National Power Loading Agreement).

  1. The 1972 and 1974 strikes

The upturn in NUM militancy – causes and consequences; the 1970 strike in south Wales; the changed energy market situation in the early 1970s; the build-up to and details of the strikes in 1972 and 1974; comparisons between the two strikes.

  1. The south Wales miners, the NUM and the ‘turbulent Seventies’

Consideration of the impact and consequences of the 1972 and 1974 strikes; developments within the NUM; opposition to the Social Contract; introduction of the incentive bonus scheme.

  1. Thatcher versus the miners 1979-1983

Politicised atmosphere under Thatcher government increases likelihood of clash; the incentive bonus scheme – introduction and consequences thereof; practical cessation of real investment into south Wales coalfield; the south Wales miners and strike action ‘false starts and near misses’ 1980-3, including British Steel in 1980, the Thatcher ‘U-turn’ in 1981 and the Lewis Merthyr strike in 1983.

  1. The Strike 1984-1985

Beginnings of the strike; early strategy (March-April 1984); the support groups and fundraising; Orgreave; Llanwern and Port Talbot; sequestration; the solidity of the strike in south Wales; how and why the strike ended.

  1. The Decline and Fall of Coal 1985-1995

The post-strike closure programme; the change in the industrial relations ‘balance of power’; the effective demise of coal mining in south Wales; the survival and success of Tower colliery; the south Wales coalfield in the twenty-first century.

Who is this course for?

Anyone with an interest in the subject. No previous knowledge is assumed.

Learning and Teaching

The course will be taught by a series of 10 sessions incorporating lectures, seminars, visual information and source criticism. There will be time for some informal discussion and debate during sessions.

Coursework and Assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

You will not have formal examinations. You may write an essay or other equivalent written assignments (such as a portfolio of shorter written exercises) to a total of 1500 words, demonstrating an understanding of core elements of the course material.
you may have class tests. Our assessments are flexible to suit the course and the student.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

Reading suggestions

The following are essential texts. The tutor will recommend other titles, as appropriate.

Curtis, Ben, ‘A Tradition of Radicalism: The Politics of the South Wales Miners, 1964-1985’, in Labour History Review, 76, No.1 (April 2011), pp.34-50
Curtis, Ben, ‘The Calm Before the Storm? The South Wales Miners versus the Thatcher Government 1979-1983’ in Llafur,10 No.2 (2009), pp.117-40
Curtis, Ben, ‘The Wilson Government and Pit Closures in South Wales 1964-1970’, Llafur, 9, No.1 (2004), pp.59-70
Francis, Hywel, History on Our Side: Wales and the 1984-85 Miners’ Strike (Ferryside, 2009)
Francis, Hywel, and Smith, Dai, The Fed: A History of the South Wales Miners in the Twentieth Century (London, 1980; new edition: Cardiff, 1998) – last chapter
Taylor, Andrew, The NUM and British Politics Vol. 1: 1944-1968 (Aldershot, 2003) and Vol. 2: 1969-1995 (Aldershot, 2005)

Library and Computing Facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University library and computing facilities. You can find out more about these facilities on our website www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn under Student Information, or by ringing the Centre on
(029) 2087 0000.

Accessibility of Courses

Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and Dyslexia screening. Please contact the Centre on (029) 2087 0000 for an information leaflet.

Further Information

A range of further information can be found on our web site www.cardiff.ac.uk/learn or in Choices.  This includes the times and dates of courses and an explanation of accreditation and credit levels.