(Re)writing the 1984-5 UK miners' strike

Katy Shaw

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNChapter


The 1984-5 UK miners’ strike was a defining moment in the history of the UK, one that not only illuminates the country’s near-history, but functions as a prism through which to understand the social, political and economic challenges of the twenty-first century. More than twenty-five years on, the strike remains a profound focus of cultural, social and political interest because its legacies are as much about the future of the UK as its past. From cultures of worklessness and social damage, to the role of regional development agencies and community initiatives, the 1984-5 UK miners’ strike was instrumental in establishing a range of discourses that came to define the subsequent decades. As the most divisive dispute in our recent history, the 1984-5 miners' strike remains a spectre that continues to haunt our contemporary world. Just under the surface of recent events, 1984-5 is with us still. For a generation of readers born in the ‘Cool Britannia’ of 1990s New Labour, there is a new motivation to look back to the Conservative legacy that bore the political conditions of the present day, to re-examine decades of unrest, division and disquiet both at home and abroad. Since the turn of the millennium, the Thatcher years have become a particularly popular period to reappraise as a result of the global credit crunch. The economic downturn that defined the first decade of the new millennium was relayed by a Western media eager to mobilise the boom and bust, recession and unemployment discourses of the 1970s and 80s, making the politics of the recent past a more immediate, relatable and felt presence. This chapter will explore the insights offered and challenges faced in illuminating the relationship between literature and politics and the political significance of literary form using some examples of key texts from the heart of the Thatcher years: Tony Harrison’s infamous poem ‘v.’ and a selection of non-canonical manuscript poetry written by miners and members of regional mining communities during the 1984-5 UK strike.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLiterary politics: the politics of literature and the literature of politics
EditorsDeborah Philips, Lara Perry
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9781137270139
Publication statusPublished - 11 Oct 2013


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