The period from 1900 to 1925 was marked by radical changes in the supervision of Queensland's coal mining industry and in the organisation of its work-force. The role of government increased significantly, procedures for owning, licensing and leasing coal-bearing land were formalized, considerable legislation was introduced for safeguarding the safety and health of the miners, and stricter measures were adopted for enforcing the terms of the legislation. The government itself became a considerable producer of coal. Many of the collieries continued to be small and family-owned, and unionism was finally accepted as necessary by both the proprietors and the men. The only markets of any importance for the coal lay within the State, and collieries were opened in many places to satisfy them.
In contrast to these considerable changes, production methods continued to rely almost exclusively on traditional hand working. True, electricity was introduced underground, there was a mild flirtation with mechanical coal cutting, and the use of explosives increased greatly, but the basic skills required of the miner remained essentially unchanged.
This third volume of "Coal in Queensland" follows the pattern of its predecessors in first examining the political, social and economic developments of the time in so far as they affected the coal mining industry. The history of each coalfield is then examined chronologically, with extensive use being made of maps, figures and photographs, and each chapter closes with a comprehensive bibliography. Technicalities are kept to a minimum, but sufficient detail is retained for the problems faced by the industry (and those working in it) to be appreciated. The object of such a format is to interest book-lovers with widely differing tastes. The general reader should find that the narrative style maintains his interest, the browser can gain a visual picture of the times, the social historian will discover plenty on mining communities, the industrial archaeologist will be introduced to the contemporary technology, and the scholar should find the extensive bibliographies of assistance in his specialist studies.
The period from 1900 to 1925 is beyond the memory of all but a handful of people alive today; nonetheless it was possible to interview a few of the survivors, including Walter Broadfoot and the late Hugh Brown, and I am deeply indebted to them for the time and care which they took in interviews. However, the research rests primarily on contemporary writings, supplemented by a study of the few physical remains that can be found on some of the sites. Care was taken to seek independent corroboration of the multitude of incidents which in sum formed the historical record but this was not always to be found, leading to a number of different interpretations being equally possible in the case of some events. Nevertheless the author is confident that the general thrust of the history of the period has been faithfully captured in the text….