THE MINISTRY of LABOUR RECORDS of COAL MINING STRIKES
A Guide to the Dataset Deposited in the ESRC Data Archive
Volume I: Sources, Methods, Data Definitions and Coding Procedures
This document describes and discusses the official data available on strikes in the British coalmining industry in the era before nationalization and gives a guide to the computer readable datasets derived from these records deposited at the ESRC Data Archive at Essex University. It is a revised version of the unpublished paper cited as Q. Outram, Official Statistical Records of British Coal Mining Strikes 1893-1940: An Evaluation and a Coding Scheme, 1978, in the research published by R. A. Church, D. N. Smith and Q. Outram.1
There are three data files, covering the strikes beginning between January 1893 and the end of January 1902 (PREJAN02.TXT), January 1903 and the end of December 1920 (PRE1921.TXT) and January 1921 and the end of December 1940 (PRE1940.TXT). Details of the layout of these files and the coding scheme will be found in Volume II of this document.
The data contained in the last two of these files were originally gathered to form an empirical backdrop to theoretical work on wage bargaining and strike activity undertaken as doctoral research by Outram.2 These two files were originally compiled in the mid-1970s and the coding of the data reflects the constraints set by the computing facilities of the time. There was little software available for processing textual data and consequently much of the textual data in the source was recorded in the form of numeric codes; inevitably much textual information, some of it potentially interesting, was lost in this process. The data was originally punched onto 80-column format cards and this constrained the amount of information which could be recorded and sometimes led me to record data in ways which were less than ideal. Subsequently it was possible to remove some of these constraints but the datasets described here still bear the marks of their birth.
The dataset now lists each strike officially recorded in the British coal mining industry by the Ministry of Labour and its predecessor bodies from 1893 to 1940, together with all the significant information about each strike gathered by the Ministry. The data available for each strike varies over time but the ‘core’ data includes: location, date and duration, the number of firms involved, the numbers of mineworkers involved and their occupations, the ‘cause’ or ‘object’ of the strike, its result and the method of settlement. From 1921 onwards the datasets include the name of the company and/or colliery affected. These data provided a link to published annual data on individual firms and collieries which has been exploited to add contextual data to each strike record. These contextual data include the numbers employed at the struck colliery and at all the struck company’s collieries. This allows the computation of a ‘strike participation rate’ for each strike, showing the proportion of the colliery or company mine workforce which was involved in the strike. The dataset is unique in that it allows the construction of strike histories for individual collieries over the 1921-1940 period and for individual ‘places’ for the 1893-1940 period.
The wealth of the data encouraged Outram and Church to undertake a further project directly concerned to explain the causes of strike activity in the industry before the Second World War, and the regional and inter-colliery differences in strike propensity. This project received financial support from the ESRC between 1987 and 1990 under award number FOO232337. The dataset was extended back to 1893 for this project.
The focus of the research was on cross-section rather than time series variation. The data have been exploited to provide a detailed description of the dimensions of strike activity in the industry, to investigate the relationship between colliery strike activity and the characteristics of colliery localities, to examine the connections between colliery size, strike activity and miners’ strike solidarity, and to investigate the impact of a number of other factors on strike histories, including technology, working conditions, patterns of mine ownership and management, union membership density, and the markets for coal and mine labour.