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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hinde’s community study is well researched and well grounded in Canadian working-class historiography.