ABSTRACT

The outcome of the 1984–5 British coal dispute has been described as a ‘heroic defeat’ (Golden 1988) for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). The year-long dispute was undoubtedly a testimony to the spirit and fortitude of the thousands of mining families involved. However, despite the connotations of an orderly retreat, suggested by the miners’ mass return to work without concession of the central issue of pit closures, ‘the reality was a rapid implementation of closures and an equally rapid collapse of resistance to them’ (McCabe and Wallington 1988: 107). By May 1990, no fewer than ninety-nine of the 172 collieries operating at the end of the dispute in March 1985 had closed; and the workforce had been reduced from 221,000 to 65,000 (The Guardian, 23 May 1990).