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King Coal

This is an online version of an exhibition held at the Modern Records Centre in 2009 to coincide with the launch of the first part of the British Film Institute's 'This Working Life' project, focusing on 'King Coal' - the turbulent story of coal mining and the immense effect it has had on British life.

Click on the thumbnails to see a larger version of each document.

Try searching our online catalogue to find information about more documents relating to coal mining.

More than 450 documents on the 1926 General Strike and miners' lockout have been digitised and are available online. Further information about archives relating to the 1984-5 Miners' Strike is included in our subject guide.

 

'Coal miners' average wages - 1914 to 1920', October 1920
'Coal miners' average wages - 1914 to 1920', October 1920

Leaflet issued by the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. It includes information about the effects of the pay award recommended by the Sankey Commission.

[Included in the archives of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation; document reference: MSS.36/C91]

'The Coal Crisis: Relief for starving women and children', 1921
'The Coal Crisis: Relief for starving women and children', 1921

Leaflet asking for contributions to the Miners' Families Relief Fund. In 1921 the mines reverted from temporary government control back to private ownership and existing pay agreements were abandoned, leading to huge pay cuts for the miners. The Miners' Federation of Great Britain refused to accept these terms and a 3 month strike followed.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/252.61/24]

Food voucher issued by the "Save the Miners' Children" Co-operative Relief Fund, 1921
Food voucher issued by the "Save the Miners' Children" Co-operative Relief Fund, 1921

This allowed the bearer to obtain goods worth two shillings and sixpence from the Co-operative Society.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/252.61/24]

Trades Union Congress leaflets on the "causes of the troubles in the mining industry", 1925Trades Union Congress leaflets on the "causes of the troubles in the mining industry", 1925
Trades Union Congress leaflets on the "causes of the troubles in the mining industry", 1925

They attack the inefficient working of the privately owned mines, the profits made by the owners, and low wages paid to the miners. Industrial action over the proposed reduction of miners' wages would lead to Britain's first general strike a year later.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/252.61/13]

Notes of Trades Union Congress Ways and Means Committee meeting, held to discuss the organisation of the General Strike, 28 April 1926
Notes of Trades Union Congress Ways and Means Committee meeting, held to discuss the organisation of the General Strike, 28 April 1926

Meeting of six trade union leaders, including Ernest Bevin. The practicalities and likely effect of the strike are discussed in this six page document.

[Included in one of many files on the General Strike, from the records of the TUC; document reference: MSS.292/252.62/19]

Photograph of soldiers at Newcastle station, armed with a Lewis gun, during the General Strike, 1926
Photograph of soldiers at Newcastle railway station, armed with a Lewis gun, during the General Strike, 1926

[Included in the archives of the National Union of Railwaymen; document reference: MSS.127/NU/GS/3/116]

'Strike Special' edition of the 'Workers Bulletin', 4 May 1926
'Strike Special' edition of the 'Workers Bulletin', 4 May 1926

Published by the Communist Party of Great Britain "to ensure the circulation of genuine news of the workers' side of the struggle", in contrast to Government-issued written bulletins or broadcasts by the BBC.

[Included in one of many files on the General Strike, from the records of the TUC; document reference: MSS.292/252.62/16/14]

General Strike edition of 'The Daily Telegraph', 8 May 1926
General Strike edition of 'The Daily Telegraph', 8 May 1926

The four page newspaper includes articles about the current strike situation, public order disturbances, and coverage of parliament.

[Included in the archives of the National Union of Railwaymen; document reference: MSS.127/NU/GS/3/110]

Photograph of striking miners in Tonypandy, South Wales, 1926
Photograph of striking miners in Tonypandy, South Wales, 1926

[Included in the 'Miscellaneous series'; document reference: MSS.21/2164/4]

'Coal: The Labour plan', c1936
'Coal: The Labour plan', c1936

Trades Union Congress booklet outlining the Labour Party's plan for the nationalisation or "socialisation" of the coal industry.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/603.95/2]

'A call to the mining industry: The urgent need for coal', 1941
'A call to the mining industry: The urgent need for coal', 1941

Reprint of "one of the most dramatic broadcasts of the war" by Mr Ebby Edwards, Secretary of the Mineworkers' Federation.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/603.95/2]

Correspondence between Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the TUC, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, regarding the urgent problem of coal production, 1941Correspondence between Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the TUC, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, regarding the urgent problem of coal production, 1941
Correspondence between Sir Walter Citrine, General Secretary of the TUC, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister, regarding the urgent problem of coal production, 1941

Citrine emphasises that "the production of adequate supplies of coal are vital to the war effort of this country as well as to the morale of the people". In 1910 Churchill, as Home Secretary, was widely thought to have been responsible for deploying troops against striking miners in South Wales; he remained unpopular in many mining areas.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/603.95/2]

'The future of the coal miner: A brief explanation based on the Reid Report', c1946'The future of the coal miner: A brief explanation based on the Reid Report', c1946
'The future of the coal miner: A brief explanation based on the Reid Report', c1946

"How coming changes mean a new deal and new opportunities for all who work in the coal industry".

[Included in the papers of Lawrence Daly, former General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers; document reference: MSS.302/11/1]

Text of broadcast about the first annual report of the National Coal Board, 1948
Text of broadcast about the first annual report of the National Coal Board, 1948

Account of the first year of the nationalised coal industry by Harold Hutchinson, Industrial Correspondent of 'The Daily Mirror'.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/603.3.5]

'Wanted: A living wage', 1972
'Wanted: A living wage', 1972

National Union of Mineworkers' leaflet issued during the strike of 1972.

[Included in the papers of Clive Jenkins; document reference: MSS.79/6/CJ/3/44]

'Background to the energy situation and the government response', 1974
'Background to the energy situation and the government response', 1974

Labour Party 'News Release'. It accuses the Conservative government of incompetence and comments on the "extreme disruption and economic damage caused by the 3-day week".

[Included in a file on 'Fuel and power: crisis 1973-', from the records of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292D/603.75/1]

'The Miners' Strike', National Union of Mineworkers' fact sheet, 1984
'The Miners' Strike', National Union of Mineworkers' fact sheet, 1984

The leaflet "explains what is happening to the coal industry and why you should support the miners".

[Included in the 'Miscellaneous series'; document reference: MSS.21/1925]

'Coal Not Dole', [1984]
'Coal Not Dole', [1984]

National Union of Mineworkers' leaflet opposing the policies of the government and actions of the National Coal Board.

[Included in one of 353 files on the 1984-5 miners' strike, from the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/2/20]

'Real unemployment', 1984
'Real unemployment', 1984

Copy of speech by Sir Ian Gilmore MP. He argues that "the country faces two great problems: Arthur Scargill and unemployment".

[Included in one of 353 files on the 1984-5 miners' strike, from the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/1/170]

'United Against Pit Closures', c.1984'United Against Pit Closures', c.1984
'United Against Pit Closures', c.1984

Leaflet produced by Women Against Pit Closures and the National Union of Mineworkers, advertising a National Women's Demonstration and Gala in London. Slogans include "Stop pit closures - save our communities" and "DHSS [Department of Health and Social Security] won't starve us back".

[Included in a file of miners' leaflets, in the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/2/20]

'Barnsley Women Against Pit Closures', 1984
'Barnsley Women Against Pit Closures', 1984

Leaflet about the Barnsley women's support group formed to aid the striking miners and their families.

[Included in a file of miners' leaflets, in the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/2/20]

'The Miners' dispute: A catalogue of violence', 1984
'The Miners' dispute: A catalogue of violence', 1984

Report published by the National Working Miners Committee, recording "attacks on working miners and working miners' property".

[Included in the 'Miscellaneous series'; document reference: MSS.21/3526]

Miners' Strike: 'Sheffield Policewatch Weekly Report No.4', June 1984 
Miners' Strike: 'Sheffield Policewatch Weekly Report No.4', June 1984

Policewatch was set up with the intention of having members of the public acting "as independent, legal observers" on the picket lines, following concern at "police handling of the miners strike" and its effect on civil liberties. This report relates to the 'Battle of Orgreave'.

[Included in a file on 'Policewatch', in the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/2/42]

'If Scargill thought we wanted a strike, he'd have given us a vote first', c1984
'If Scargill thought we wanted a strike, he'd have given us a vote first', c1984

Anti-strike leaflet issued by the Nottinghamshire Miners Right to Work Committee.

[Included in a file of miners' leaflets, in the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/2/20]

'A strike-breaker is a traitor', 1984
'A strike-breaker is a traitor', 1984

Leaflet issued by the National Union of Mineworkers (South Wales area), quoting Jack London's "definition of a scab".

[Included in a file of miners' leaflets, in the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/2/20]

Examples of anti-strike stickers, 1984-5
Examples of anti-strike stickers, 1984-5

These were produced by the Nottinghamshire Miners Right to Work Committee.

[Included in a file of miners' leaflets, in the papers of Sir George Pope; document reference: MSS.271/S/2/20]