The article proceeds from the observation that in the contemporary British cultural imagination, the figure of the coal miner tends to be presented as the embodiment of anti-urban and organicist qualities that in continental Europe are more commonly associated with the peasantry. Drawing on the theoretical insights of Raymond Williams, the article traces the genealogy of this ‘structure of feeling’ back to the time of the miners’ strike of 1984/85 and beyond into the 1970s. It argues that the ‘ruralised’ miner was one imaginary in a complex power struggle over the ‘real’ identity of miners that was waged between the industry and the state, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Coal Board (NCB), and crucially, inside the NUM itself. ‘Ruralisation’ was most vigorously promoted by union militants who sought to displace an alternative vision, championed jointly by the Coal Board and Union moderates, which had situated miners firmly at the heart of industrial modernity. It was only in the wake of the defeat of the miners in the 1984/5 strike, and during the subsequent cultural reworking of this strike, that this structure finally gained dominance.
Arnold, J. (2020). 'That rather sinful city of London': the coal miner, the city and the country in the British cultural imagination c. 1969-2014. Urban History, 47(2), 292-310. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0963926819000555