Backbone of the Nation: Mining Communities and the Great Strike of 1984-85 (Paperback)

Backbone of the Nation: Mining Communities and the Great Strike of 1984-85 By Robert Gildea Cover Image

Backbone of the Nation: Mining Communities and the Great Strike of 1984-85 (Paperback)

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“An admirably compassionate testament”—Max Hastings, Sunday Times

“A vivid and evocative panorama”—James Graham, The Observer

“Superb”—John Harris, The Guardian


A powerful new history of the Great Strike in the miners’ own voices, based on more than 140 interviews with former miners and their families

Forty years ago, Arthur Scargill led the National Union of Mineworkers on one of the largest strikes in British history. A deep sense of pride existed within Britain’s mining communities who thought of themselves as the backbone of the nation’s economy. But they were vilified by Margaret Thatcher’s government and eventually broken: deprived of their jobs, their livelihoods, and in some cases, their lives.

In this groundbreaking new history, Robert Gildea interviews those miners and their families who fought to defend themselves. Exploring mining communities from South Wales to the Midlands, Yorkshire, County Durham, and Fife, Gildea shows how the miners and their families organized to protect themselves, and how a network of activists mobilized to support them.

Amid the recent wave of industrial action in the United Kingdom, Backbone of the Nation highlights anew the importance of labor organization—and intimately records the triumphs, losses, and resilience of these mining communities.
Robert Gildea is professor emeritus of modern history at the University of Oxford. He is the author of Fighters in the Shadows, Empires of the Mind, and the Wolfson Prize–winning Marianne in Chains.
Product Details ISBN: 9780300277906
ISBN-10: 0300277903
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: March 12th, 2024
Pages: 496
Language: English
“Gildea’s book offers an admirably compassionate testament.”—Max Hastings, Sunday Times

“A vivid and evocative panorama for those either interested in the final throes of industrial society or who come from such communities.”—James Graham, The Observer

“A superb new book by the Oxford University historian Robert Gildea.”—John Harris, The Guardian

“Gildea has an ear for everyday oratory, and his interviewees come to life on the page. . . . Gildea’s assessment introduces rare nuance while remaining moving, drawing out memories of conflict as well as co-operation.”—Conrad Landon, Times Literary Supplement

“Drawing on 148 testimonies, Gildea, a University of Oxford historian, teases out a battle not only between the National Union of Mineworkers and Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, but between different mining traditions and ideologies.”—Johnathan McAloon, Financial Times

“At last, a book about the strike that gives an honest overview of what happened to miners, their families and communities. We entrusted Gildea with our memories, and he has, in return, told our story with dignity and a historian’s eye.”—Siân James, former MP for Swansea East

“Gildea has dug deep and struck the richest of seams. By inviting us to listen carefully to the men and women on the strike’s frontline, he’s created history that is revelatory, gripping, and—best of all—infused with humanity. In short, Backbone of the Nation is a masterpiece.”—David Hendy, author of The BBC: A People’s History

“I’ve been waiting for the definitive oral history of the Miners’ Strike. This is it: the voices of people I spent a year fighting alongside condensed and preserved with rigour and accuracy.”—Paul Mason, author of Live Working or Die Fighting