By Martin Empson
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Pick Your Site

This article is over 19 years, 10 months old
The 20th anniversary of the miners' strike offers an opportunity to examine how the internet has been used to archive and record British trade union history.
Issue 284

Unfortunately the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is one of the few British trade unions not to have a website, so material relating to the miners and their history is limited, or from a right wing point of view. The BBC has part of its site devoted to the anniversary, and while its archive of images, film and interviews is extensive, it can be unusual. It includes, for instance, an ‘animated map’ that allows you to watch the ‘UK’s coal mines disappear’. Nevertheless, it does give you a good overview of the year-long struggle.

A more sympathetic view of the miners is given at the website of NUJ member Martin Shakeshaft, a photographer who covered the strike.

The defeat of the miners in 1985 led to a period of sackings, victimisation and pit closures. The campaign to get Justice for Mineworkers who suffered as a result of this has an extensive website, with information on civil liberties, women’s support groups and a strike chronology.

The lack of effective solidarity is one of the major reasons for the strike’s defeat, yet it is surprising that the TUC’s website doesn’t even record the anniversary. Their history and archive site ‘The Union Makes Us Strong’ prefers to dwell on past glories, concentrating on two major moments of British working class history – the 1888 Match Girls’ strike and the 1926 General Strike. Both sections have many documents, images and archive material relating to the events (including over 2,000 pictures of the General Strike).

This site also gives access to hundreds of TUC reports of its annual meetings – allowing you, according to Brendan Barber’s introduction, to see how the working people of Britain responded to ‘the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the General Strike’.

Finally, following on from an earlier article about trade unionists on the web, Geoff Brown emails to suggest the Labour Start website. Its caption is ‘Where Trade Unionists Start the Day’, giving you the chance to read about and offer solidarity to workers’ struggles today.

Martin Empson, [email protected]

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