Skip to main content

Distributed for University of London Press

Coal Country

The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland

Distributed for University of London Press

Coal Country

The Meaning and Memory of Deindustrialization in Postwar Scotland

The flooding and subsequent closure of Scotland’s last deep coal mine in 2002 was a milestone event in the nation’s deindustrialization. Villages and towns across the densely populated Central Belt of Scotland 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 also had profound social, cultural, and political implications. Coal Country documents this process of deindustrialization and its effects, drawing on archival records from the UK government, the nationalized coal industry, trade unions, and transcripts from an extensive oral history project. Deindustrialization, we learn, progressed slowly but powerfully across the second half of the twentieth century. Coal Country explains the deep roots of economic changes and their political reverberations, which continue to be felt to this day.

250 pages | 2 color plates, 6 haltones | 6 1/2 x 9 3/4

New Historical Perspectives

History: British and Irish History

Sociology: Urban and Rural Sociology

University of London Press image

View all books from University of London Press


“Required reading for anyone who wants to understand the history of Scotland.”

Conrad Landin | The Guardian

“The narratives in Coal Country are often so fascinating that they could be the basis of a short story.”

Journal of Working Class Studies

Coal Country is a compelling account of industrial transformation and the fall of the carbon economy.”


“Ewan Gibbs excavates the deep history of coal mining in the Scottish central belt and his longer story of deindustrialisation in the Scottish coalfields is constructed from an impressive range of archival research as well as oral testimony, humanising a narrative that could be reduced to a mere accounting of the internecine struggles between industrial policy and unions. By giving voice to those on the ground, the workers are rescued from being mere bystanders to blind historical forces. . . . This inherited past that Gibbs delineates could prove invaluable for building a just future.”

The MorningStar

“It’s notable that the two unanticipated successes in Scottish fiction last year—Shuggie Bain and Scabby Queen—both feature mining communities in a far from flattering light. [Coal Country] serves to counter the idea that working men are inherently violent, that pit closures must mean villages going to the dogs, that industrial workers must be sheep-like in their solidarity. This book adds much needed nuance to accounts of deindustrialisation in Scotland. . . Coal Country is a work of history which moves beyond the familiar symbols of deindustrialisation, and points instead to the rich legacy of mining in Scotland, an indelible stamp on the contemporary nation.”

Bella Caledonia

“That I found this book a tough read is no criticism of the author but rather a reflection of the fact that I am of an age to have participated in and been influenced by some of the politics Ewan sets out in a work of history which, as he correctly observes, echo in and have resonance in today’s Scotland.”

Scottish Socialist Voice

History Book of the Year: Shortlisted

Saltire Scottish National Book Awards

Table of Contents

Introduction: Those who walked in darkest valleys

Chapter 1 ‘Buried treasure’: industrial development in the Scottish coalfields, c.1940s–1980s

Chapter 2 Moral economy: custom and social obligation in colliery closures

Chapter 3 Communities: ‘it was pretty good’ in reconstructed locales

Chapter 4 Gendered experiences

Chapter 5 Generational perspectives

Chapter 6 Coalfield politics and nationhood

Chapter 7 Synthesis: ‘the full burden of national conscience’: class, nation and deindustrialization

Conclusion: The meaning and memory of deindustrialization

Appendix: Interviewee biographies


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press