Coal mining communities are amongst the most unhealthy of all working class communities in Britain. This paper examines the ways that an oral history methodology can contribute to our understanding of the history of occupational health and safety in mining. It focuses upon the impact that coal mining work and its loss had upon the body and mind, investigating the prevailing work-health cultures in mining communities in Britain in the twentieth century. It draws upon an array of miner’s oral testimonies, including 50 interviews undertaken across three British coalfields for a project a decade or so ago on coal miners’ respiratory diseases. It is argued that the body is a recurring motif in miners’ memories and that drawing upon such personal reminiscence enables us to get beyond epidemiological ‘body counts’ to get closer to lived experience as well to critically reflect on the ways that miners construct their narratives. The health and well-being of those in coal mining communities was undermined by a complex series of processes, but at the core of this is the profound economic violence meted out by a productionist work culture which prevailed across privatized and state owned production systems. The long-drawn out process of pit closures and the changed power dynamics and industrial relations cultures as deindustrialization deepened from the 1970s only served to exacerbate health problems, adding the socio-psychic impacts of job loss and the stressors of work intensification and economic precarity to communities already decimated by historic legacies of premature death, injury, chronic disease and disability. The oral evidence also identifies and elucidates a persisting ‘hard man’ work-health culture which prevailed and which also acted as a contributory drag anchor on health and safety standards in mining communities.
|Translated title of the contribution||Bearing witness: oral history methodology in the study of occupational health and disability in British coal mining|
|Number of pages||30|
|Journal||Journal of the Social History of Medicine and Health|
|Publication status||Published - 30 Jun 2019|
- oral history
- oral history methodology
- coal mining communities