Black Gold by Jeremy Paxman

Started by: gaffer (6932) 

The history of how black gold made Britain. A short clip.

But filling ships with coal was an arduous and filthy business. “A shadow would come over the ship as soon as you heard you were coaling.” Oil produced four times as much energy, pound for pound, and was easier to use, so the navy started to make the switch by the end of the 19th century. The rise of oil was the beginning of the end for coal.

In the 20th century coal’s dark history came back to bite it. Its decline was accelerated by the appalling industrial relations that were peculiar to the mining business. Living in tight communities around the pithead, doing a dangerous job, miners were readier to strike and harder to break than most groups of workers. That made them politically dangerous. When in 1925, after many profitable years, the mine owners found themselves in a spot and demanded that miners take a pay cut, the miners induced other unions to call a General Strike.

Miners finishing a shift at Machrihanish, Mull of Kintyre, in 1950
Miners finishing a shift at Machrihanish, Mull of Kintyre, in 1950
The industry was appallingly run, with a failure to improve productivity that sounds depressingly familiar today. Between 1913 and 1936, the amount of coal produced by a miner in a shift rose by 114 per cent in the Netherlands, 81 per cent in Germany and 10 per cent in Britain. Paxman recognises that the fault did not lie only on one side. He quotes FE Smith, a Conservative politician: “It would be possible to say without exaggeration that the miners’ leaders were the stupidest men in England if we had not frequent occasion to meet the owners.”


As the industry declines in the 20th century, the pace of the story slackens — until the dramatic finale. Paxman is clear that by the time of the 1984 miners’ strike economics had doomed the coal industry. British coal was simply not worth mining. Nevertheless, the psychological effect of the strike on the nation was immense. Paxman’s fine narrative powers are at their best in his account of it, with the chain-smoking scion of a mine-owning family, Nicholas Ridley, plotting the industry’s destruction for Margaret Thatcher and the charismatic demagogue Arthur Scargill charging into the trap that he had laid.

At the miners’ last stand, the Battle of Orgreave, mounted police beat striking miners with their batons, finishing off the industry, and along with it a certain idea of a country in which gentlemen on both sides of the capitalist divide could agree to disagree. From its beginnings to its end, the industry that made our country what it is, for good and ill, was a brutal business. Paxman is determined that we should not forget it.
Black Gold: The History of How Coal Made Britain by Jeremy Paxman, William Collins, 320pp; £25

Started: 25th Sep 2021 at 13:21

Posted by: Tommy Two Stroke (8705)

I have bought that for me Kindle

Replied: 25th Sep 2021 at 14:30

Posted by: Tommy Two Stroke (8705)

Change that,,, I bought it and then noticed that it had not downloaded on to me Kindle, when I checked me order, it had been changed to a book by Oliver North on the order page, so I don't know, but I cancelled it and Amazon have refunded my £9.99 ,, but from experience, it won't charge back on to me card for a few days

Replied: 25th Sep 2021 at 22:23

Posted by: GOLDEN BEAR (4449) 

Now we have no coal industry ,but yet all our competitors in all the major producing countries of the world are still and increasing coal output ,but this inane country belief's that by closing down all our's we will change the earth's climate for the better ,,, ((( POPPYCOCK )) Just look what happen's to us when the wind doesn't blow , we cannot make electricity !!! Alternatively what did we do ?? We imported the black gold ........GB

Replied: 27th Sep 2021 at 15:45

Posted by: Tommy Two Stroke (8705)

Golden Bear

Have a read about what Australia thinks about it LINK

And their PM has 'ducked' it, he is not coming to the COP26 thing, the soft git.

Replied: 27th Sep 2021 at 16:22

Posted by: ena malcup (366)

There is no contribution to carbon footprint if we simply import the coal, or if we import the steel or finished goods which have utilised a coal-burn overseas!

Replied: 27th Sep 2021 at 19:04


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