|(courtesy The Age of Change)|
This article examines British coal owners’ use of medical and scientific knowledge of occupational lung diseases in the mining industry to resist regulatory changes between 1918 and 1946. It explores the strategies deployed by coal owners in response to scientific and lay debates over the hazard to workers’ health presented by dust, and legislation to compensate miners for pneumoconiosis and silicosis contracted in the nation’s collieries. In particular, it investigates coal owner deployment of the views of notable scientists, especially the eminent physiologist John Scott Haldane (1860–1936), who insisted on the harmlessness of coal dust, in order to avoid costly compensation payments, as well as capital investment in ameliorative measures to reduce miners’ exposure to such hazards. In so doing, the article provides new insights by illustrating how coal owners influenced mining education programmes, deploying the arguments of Haldane and others, with direct implications for health and safety in British mines. This contributed to the mounting public health disaster wrought by coal dust on Britain’s mining communities. This process is viewed as part of the broader political activities of the coal owners – and their industry body, the Mining Association of Great Britain – in its attempts to influence the regulatory process in a period of dramatic change in the political economy of coal.