The miners’ strike of 1984/5 in the UK remains a defining event in contemporary social and political history. Animosity between the Nottinghamshire breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers, and those loyal to the National Union of Mineworkers remains evident thirty years later (Paterson 2015). It has contemporary resonance because the experience of the strike – and particularly the sense of betrayal amongst Nottinghamshire miners following the pit closures in the 1990s – is widely credited with having impacted the high “leave” vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum (Guardian 2017).
This research will focus on the role of women in the miners’ strike as mothers, daughters, wives and girlfriends (WAGs) of those on strike. These women were affected by the economic hardship involved in the strike and the emotional toll of diverging from the NUM orthodoxy. This study seeks to establish to what extent they had agency in the making of the decisions which affected their lives.
It fills a gap in the literature, for whilst the history of the Nottinghamshire miners’ role in the strike has been addressed by Paterson (2015), the miners’ point of view by Griffin (2005) and the discourse of the overall strike by Hart (2017), the specific discourse of the women involved has not been addressed. Sutcliffe-Braithwaite and Thomlinson (2018), have touched on women’s activism overall, but the experience of the Nottinghamshire women has not been addressed.
The aim of this research is to establish the activities and opinions of the Nottinghamshire women during the miners’ strike of 1984/5. It will examine what they were doing from day to day and how involved they were in the decision-making process. It will also ask how they saw their role as “women” in that process. Did they lack agency? Were they obliged to go along with the male voice? What did they think about this? In this way the project will analyse the identity of the Nottinghamshire wives from a feminist perspective and how they dealt with the circumstances of the strike and crossing the picket line. The exact research question will also depend on the theoretical perspective selected.
The methodology will be qualitative with data gathered through 30-40 semi-structured interviews with women involved with Nottinghamshire miners at that time. Whilst the majority of Nottinghamshire miners were UDM members, a small group of NUM members remained, and it would be important to access this group as well. These would be identified through snowball sampling drawing on the contacts of the Director of Studies and co-supervisors. This data would be analysed using discourse analysis. The exact nature of the discourse analysis would depend on the theoretical perspective, but it is expected both would veer towards the “critical” end of the feminist theoretical spectrum.
It would also be possible to include Derbyshire women as a separate dataset and treat either as a direct comparison or another case study. Derbyshire remained within the NUM and therefore remained on strike once the Nottinghamshire men had returned to work causing ongoing animosity in villages just a few miles apart. In making this suggestion I am mindful that Dr Ros Hague came from Chesterfield.
Novelty and ambition
As mentioned above, this project fills a big gap in the literature. It is also an important topic in terms of feminist approaches. The ambition of this project is to work towards filling the gap in the existing literature and opening up an area for future research which touches upon the social and economic history of Nottinghamshire as well as the contemporary political history of the UK and feminist approaches.
Expertise and facilities provided by the project team
The supervisory team is well balanced in terms of PhD supervisory experience and relevant subject experience. Dr Natalie Martin has worked as a journalist in the Nottinghamshire area including during the pit closures of the 1990s. Dr Heather Watkins is a political ethnographer and has carried out previous fieldwork with Nottinghamshire communities while Dr Jon Gorry is familiar with the politics of the time. The successful candidate would have an interest in the history and politics of the miners’ strike and British politics more widely and is interested in applying a feminist perspective to this material.
Entrants must have a first/undergraduate Honours degree, with an Upper Second Class or a First Class grade, in Politics, International Relations, Sociology or a related discipline. Entrants with a Lower Second Class grade at first degree must also have a postgraduate Masters Degree at Merit or Commendation.
How to apply
How to apply
Applications close at 11:59 pm (UK time) on Tuesday 2 April 2019.
Further information on how to apply can be found on this page.
Interviews will take place in late April or early-mid May 2019.
Fees and funding
This PhD will be funded from a stipend donated by the family of Dr Ros Hague, a Senior Lecturer in Politics at NTU who died suddenly in November 2017, age 42.
International applicants are eligible, and encouraged, to apply as well as Home/EU students.
The Dr Ros Hague stipend will fund up to five fees-only studentships. In addition, two of these may also be eligible for living costs at the standard UKRI rate. The final decision about how many studentships there will be – and which ones have full living costs attached – will be taken at the selection stage.
Guidance and support
Further information on guidance and support can be found on this page.