For as long as anyone can remember, coal has been the lifeblood of the communities of County Durham. In its heyday, in 1913, the region boasted 304 pits employing 165,246 people. Coalmining in Durham was recorded as early as the twelfth century and medieval collieries flourished along the Wear Valley. A dramatic increase in coal production following the Industrial Revolution saw the county become one of the country's major sources of fuel, as it remained well into the twentieth century. The anonymous individuals, and their families, behind the story of coalmining in the area are the subject of theis book, which is both an authoritative history and a fascinating portrayal of Durham life. A wide range of material is covered, from clear, illustrated explanations of the technicalities and terminology of coal extraction and coke-making, to the story of the Durham Miners' Association and its struggle for improvements in living and working conditions. The hardships and dangers of the miner's life are recalled in the pictures of the great pit disasters and in the words of the survivors and rescuers, but the comradeship and community are never lost sight of and come into their own in the accounts of pit village life and the famous Durham Miners' Gala.