Coal Country: The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland


Ewan Gibbs


The flooding and subsequent closure of Scotland’s last deep coal mine in 2002 was a milestone in the nation’s deindustrialization. Villages and towns across the densely populated central belt owe their existence to coal mining’s expansion during the nineteenth century and its maturation in the twentieth. Colliery closures and job losses were not just experienced in economic terms: they had profound social, cultural and political implications. Coal Country presents the first book-length account of deindustrialization in the Scottish coalfields. It draws on archival research using records from UK government, the nationalized coal industry and trade unions as well as transcripts from an extensive oral history project.

Deindustrialization progressed as a slow but powerful march across the second half of the twentieth century. In this book, big changes in cultural identities are explained as the outcome of long-term economic developments. Oral testimonies from former miners and their wives and children bring to life transformations in gender relations and distinct generational workplace experiences. This book argues that major alterations to the politics of class and nationhood have their origins in deindustrialization. The adverse effects of UK government policy, and centralization in the nationalized coal industry, encouraged miners and their trade union to voice their grievances in the language of Scottish national sovereignty and to support a devolved Scottish parliament. Coal Country examines the deep roots of economic changes and their political reverberations, which continue to be felt in the 2020s.

Dr Ewan Gibbs is a lecturer in global inequalities at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow.

Coal Country. The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland appears in New Historical Perspectives, an Open Access monograph series for Early Career Scholars from the Royal Historical Society and Institute of Historical Research.

Read more about Ewan's book, and the NHP series, on the Institute of Historical Research blog 'On History' (February 2021).


  • Introduction: 'Those who walked in darkest valleys'
  • 1. ‘Buried treasure’: industrial development in the Scottish coalfields, c.1940s–1980s
  • 2. Moral economy: custom and social obligation in colliery closures
  • 3. Communities: ‘it was pretty good’ in reconstructed locales
  • 4. Gendered experiences
  • 5. Generational perspectives
  • 6. Coalfield politics and nationhood
  • 7. Synthesis: ‘the full burden of national conscience’: class, nation and deindustrialization
  • Conclusion: The meaning and memory of deindustrialization
  • Appendix: Interviewee biographies
  • Bibliography


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February 15, 2021

Details about the available publication format: Open Access

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Details about the available publication format: Paperback


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Details about the available publication format: Hardback


ISBN-13 (15)


Date of first publication (11)

Hijri Calendar

Physical Dimensions