The Industrial Revolution produced injury, illness and disablement on a large scale, but nowhere was this more visible than in coalmining. Disability in the Industrial Revolution: Physical impairment in British coalmining, 1780-1880 sheds new light on the human cost of industrialisation by examining the lives and experiences of those disabled in a sector that was vital to Britain's economic growth.
Although it is commonly assumed that industrialisation led to increasing marginalisation of people with impairments, disabled mineworkers were expected to return to work wherever possible, and new medical services were developed to assist in this endeavour. Using a rich and innovative mix of sources, ranging from official reports to autobiographies, this book examines disability and its consequences in the coalfields of Scotland, north east England and south Wales. It explores how working conditions, organisation of labour, and employer attitudes affected the ability of impaired miners to find employment. It charts the multifaceted responses to disablement, ranging from health and safety regulation to welfare programmes. Recognising that experiences of disability extended beyond the world of work, the book discusses the family, community and cultural lives of disabled mineworkers. It also shows how disability played an important role in industrial relations and shaped class identity. In doing so, it not only demonstrates that disabled people contributed to Britain's industrial development, but also shows how concerns about disability shaped responses to industrialisation. The book will appeal to students and academics interested in disability, occupational health and social history.