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Black Gold: The History of How Coal Made Britain

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Written in the captivating style of his bestselling book The English, Paxman ranges widely across Britain to explore stories of engineers and inventors, entrepreneurs and industrialists, and the aristocrats such as the Marquises of Bute whose wealth ballooned after the discovery of coal seams beneath their blessed acres. These include the Senghenydd explosion of 1913 (440 dead) and the Gresford one of 1934 (266 dead), with bodies ravaged by shock waves, fire or asphyxiation – or all three. Their story is also central: the miners’ struggles for safety and status; the inseparability of mine and community; and their famous fight against decline; later tell the story of 20th century Britain. Few went underground if they had much choice in the matter and the most shocking revelation in this book is that the local authorities in Durham deliberately discouraged new industries in the area because they knew that young men would not become miners if they had any reasonable alternative. One has to agree with her statement in the conclusion that “if capitalism fosters extractivism, it does not follow that getting rid of capitalism would, at this juncture, eliminate the need for extraction” (203).

When near the close of her book she clearly states her political views about the environment, I found that I agree with every one of them.The coal industry loomed large in my youth, from three day weeks in the 70s to the miners strike of the 80s. Mines were horrible places and miners were, except during a brief period between the successful strikes of the early 1970s and the failed one of 1984–5, poorly paid. Heat from coal offered freedom from the ravages of frost and cold, which amounted to freedom from the calendar. In this brilliant social history, Jeremy Paxman tells the story of coal mining in England, Scotland and Wales from Roman times, through the birth of steam power to war, nationalisation, pea-souper smogs, industrial strife and the picket lines of the Miner’s Strike. Still, the whole history of what it meant to be a miner, or to be in a mining community, comes across well here.

Coal and the mining of it may be old-fashioned and something we prefer not to think about, but it mustn't be forgotten. The book is so very interesting, but the vanishing of the reader's voice at every subordinate clause is unbearable.Disjointed structure and surprisingly poor editing unfortunately damage what’s otherwise a very interesting and engaging popular history of coal mining and it’s impact on industry and empire in Britain.

Huw Beynon and Ray Hudson have produced a very different kind of work on a subject that they have lived with for much of their lives.

From the bestselling historian and acclaimed broadcaster ‘A rich social history … Paxman’s book could hardly be more colourful, and I enjoyed each page enormously’ DOMINIC SANDBROOK, SUNDAY TIMES ‘Vividly told … Paxman’s fine narrative powers are at their best’ THE TIMES Coal is the commodity that made Britain. And while sympathetic to the development of the unions who improved the lot of their members he also sees the failings of the NUM especially regarding the strike of 1983/84. But whilst the rich inevitably became richer, the story told by Black Gold is first and foremost a history of the working miners - the men, women and often children who toiled in appalling conditions down in the mines; the villages that were thrown up around the pit-head; the brass bands, nonconformist religion and passionate horticulture that flourished in mining communities.

His regular appearances on the BBC2's Newsnight programme have been criticised as aggressive, intimidating, condescending and irreverent, and applauded as tough and incisive. It also reinforces the usual way of business and profit being prioritised over welfare, safety and the environment.To access your ebook(s) after purchasing, you can download the free Glose app or read instantly on your browser by logging into Glose. He talks candidly about the many diseaters that have befallen the coal industry and paints miners as heroes of the land.

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