When Coal Was King
288 pages, 6 1/2 x 9
22 b&w illustrations, 3 maps
Release Date:21 Nov 2003
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

When Coal Was King

Ladysmith and the Coal-Mining Industry on Vancouver Island

UBC Press

The town of Ladysmith was one of the most important coal-mining communities on Vancouver Island during the early twentieth century. The Ladysmith miners had a reputation for radicalism and militancy and engaged in bitter struggles for union recognition and economic justice, most notably the Great Strike of 1912-14. This strike, one of the longest and most violent labour disputes in Canadian history, marked a watershed in the history of the town and the coal industry.

This book explains the origins of the 1912-14 strike by examining the development of the coal industry on Vancouver Island, the founding of Ladysmith, the experience of work and safety in the mines, the process of political and economic mobilization, and how these factors contributed to the development of identity and community. While the Vancouver Island coal industry and the strike have been the focus of a number of popular histories, this book goes beyond to emphasize the importance of class, ethnicity, gender, and community in creating the conditions for the emergence and mobilization of the working-class population. Informed by current academic debates on the matter and within the discipline, this readable history takes into account extensive archival research, and will appeal to historians and others interested in the history of Vancouver Island.


  • 2004, Commended - BC Historical Federation Book Prize, BC Historical Federation
John R. Hinde has written an engaged, subtle, and provocative account of coal miners on Vancouver Island. His study focuses on the 1898-1913 and on the mines in the vicinity of Ladysmith, but it includes context that illuminates the history of the industry throughout the island. Alan McCullough, Western Historical Quarterly, Summer 2005
John R. Hinde’s rather understated title seems to imply that his book is simply as study of Vancouver Island’s coal industry as viewed through one community: Ladysmith. But his book is much more, for Hinde has a number of points to make about such topics as class-consciousness, radicalism, and militancy. In fact, this book is meant to be corrective. Throughout the text, he challenges interpretations other historians have developed while studying the area’s coal mines. Canadian labour historians will find the book interesting reading. David A. Wolff, Black Hills State University, Pacific Northwest Quarterly, Spring 2005
Hinde’s community study is well researched and well grounded in Canadian working-class historiography. Sean T. Cadigan, Canadian Literature 184, Spring 2005
The author provides a thorough and sensitive post-mortem of Ladysmith’s most troubled days. Well-researched, lucid, and supplemented with almost two dozen photographs, When Coal was King will appeal to a variety of readers. Chris Morier, University of Victoria, Scientia Canadensis, Vol. 28, 2005
This history of coal-mining in and around Ladysmith on Vancouver Island from the 1850s to the First World War is scholarly and well research, sympathetic to the coal miners and their families and aware of the context and the times of their rough lives. Patricia Marchak, University of Toronto Quarterly, vol. 75, no. 1, Winter 2006
John R. Hinde has taught at the University of Victoria and Malaspina University College. His first book, Jacob Burckhardt and the Crisis of Modernity (2000), was awarded the 2001 Wallace K. Ferguson Prize by the Canadian Historical Association.



1 A Selfish Millionaire

2 A Town of Merry Hearts

3 Down in the Dark and Gloomy Dungeons

4 Death’s Cold Hand

5 From Pillar to Post

6 The Great Strike

7 No Ordinary Riot


Notes; Bibliography; Index

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