Manny shinwell

The coal mining conundrum: why did the NUM fight so hard for its members’ right to suffer underground?

Anyone with a grasp of the history of Britain knows that its once considerable power, and much of its still considerable prosperity, was built on coal. The geological accident of these islands containing coal gave us the industrial revolution and the first railways, and consolidated British naval power. Implicit in that accident was the fact that a few landowners, under whose acres the coalfields spread, became astonishingly rich as a result — people such as the Butes, the Londonderrys and the Fitzwilliams, who lived self-indulgent lives in their stately homes while half a mile below semi-naked men crawled in coal dust five-and-a-half days a week to make them so wealthy.