Class, culture and community : a study of social change in mining through biography
This is a study of social change in a mining community in the North East of England. It is based on a biographical study of a miner and his family and covers the period from the 1870s to the I96OS, The aim is to show that biography, a literary form, is nonetheless a method of reconciling sociological and historical analysis. The focus on one person through time it is claimed, makes it possible to see how changes in society are experienced in everyday life. The argument develops to show that the routines of everyday life, particularly of work and of the family, together with the taken-for-granted forms of understanding the world in the village, were embedded in the structures of the community itself and these, in their turn, were shaped massively by the changing relationships of class. Class analysis is discussed here as being essentially a tool of historical study. Such relations cannot be understood statically as if they existed outside of time. The mining community is described as a constructed community defined historically by the actions of a paternalistic coal company and by the local actions of the organised labour movement each seeking to achieve their own ends and protect their interests. The outcome was a system of social relationships shaping the constraints which miners and their families faced together with their outlook and opportunities. The changes in British society discussed here and which form the spine of the whole account is the shift from the paternalistic capitalism of the late Victorian period and up to the mid 1930s, to a system of corporate capitalism and the welfare state after the Second World War. The aim of the study is to show how these changes, forced by crisis, changed the mining community and through that, the life of the man who is the subject of this study. The sociological methods used here, particularly those of working closely with respondents to interpret their own past represent one way of carrying out historical ethnography.