For the purposes of analysis, the British coal industry in the century leading up to the Second World War is usually considered in terms of two periods, the one neatly separated from the other by the First World War. On the face of it, this appears to be justified by the contrasting fortunes of the industry over the two periods concerned. From 1850 to 1913 employment increased from 250,000 to over a million. Output increased from 60 million to 300 million tons with the proportion of exports rising from under ten to over thirty per cent and accounting for a tenth of the value of all British exports by the latter date. 2 By contrast the industry in the interwar period is scarcely ever seen to be free of either short- or long-term problems with special emphasis being placed upon unemployment, industrial strife, collapsed export markets and the failure to reconstruct the industry in almost every respect. The problems of the industry were already recognised at the end of the First World War and could be substantially documented in the Samuel Report (1926). The Reid Report of 1945 had very little extra to add in substance rather than detail given the intervening passage of twenty years. Nevertheless its conclusions were more palatable by that time and made more so no doubt by their conciliatory but disingenuous observation that:

When we come, therefore, as we must, to point out the mistakes which were made in these early years of the coalmining industry, let us beware of merely being wise after the event, or of withholding the needs of praise due to a great race of men, employers, mining engineers, workmen and machinery makers alike. For whatever their faults, they were fit to rank with the greatest of Britain’s industrial pioneers.