The miner has often been depicted as the archetypal proletarian. This is scarcely surprising in industrial nations, which were, for a relatively long time, heavily dependent on coal and possessed a large and often truculent mining community. In a way, which is perhaps more unusual, other sections of society have recognized something almost heroic, even romantic, in the physical exertion of the miner in frightful and dangerous conditions underground. Great mining disasters and the high incidence of disease, sickness and invalidity have in the past generated some general sympathy. So, too, has the intransigent behaviour of autocratic coal barons, whose local economic and political power some American miners sought to denounce as ‘un-American’ after the turn of the century in an attempt to win the support of both the Federal state and the American public. In this they were sometimes successful, as in the case of the Lehigh anthracite miners of Pennsylvania, who were supported by their local business community against the mine owners during the 1887 dispute. Miners in the French town of Decazeville sought to mobilize the communal politics of radical republicanism against the dominant local coal company in the second half of the nineteenth century; and even in the British coal disputes of the 1970s Sheffield newspapers organized kitchens for striking pitmen. They did not do so in 1984–5; and the death of sympathy can be listed as one of many reasons for the failure of this last dispute. 1