The Dignity of Decent Men

Geoff Coyle revisits an article by Chris Wrigley, first published in History Today in 1984, examining the mining dispute of 1926,which developed into Britain’s first and, to date, only general strike.

Chris Wrigley wrote his article on the mining dispute of 1926 against the backdrop of the bitter miners’ strike of 1984, which saw the end of large-scale mining in Britain. Workers in the mining industry were always acutely aware of their history, their victories and defeats. Wrigley explains that what had started as a dispute between the Miners Association of Great Britain, the precursor of the National Union of Mineworkers, became a general strike when others, such as dockers, railwaymen and steel workers, came out in support of the miners. The general strike collapsed after about nine days, but the coal miners were locked out by their employers for nearly a year until they were forced back to work by hunger, having had to accept lower wages and longer hours. Wrigley writes movingly of the suffering of the miners and their families but, if anything, he understates the wider implications of the case. He mentions 3,000 men being on strike in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, but that would mean at least 15,000 mouths to feed.

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