Arthur Horner – A Political Biography

Vol 1: 1894 - 1944

Author: Nina Fishman


ISBN: 9781907103056 Categories: ,

Format: Paperback

Publication date: March 1, 2010

Page extent: 608

Out of stock

A biography detailing the life of communist and trade unionist Arthur Horner (1894-1968) and his important contributions to the left in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century.

Arthur Horner (1894-1968) was a miners’ leader from the 1926 general strike until his retirement as general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers in 1959. During his life, he contributed in essential ways to the development of social democracy in Britain and to trade unionism as a whole. But it was his warmth, good humour and enthusiasm which made ‘little Arthur’, as he was affectionately known by his union colleagues, really memorable.

Coming from a working-class family and being forced by poverty to leave school at eleven, Horner devoted his life to the struggle for socialism. He was a committed communist, but was also able to exercise effective leadership in a major trade union committed to social democratic principles, playing a key role in the social democratic settlement after the Second World War. Horner played a crucial role in the fight for a national mineworkers’ union and the development of the National Coal Board; was a champion of the Republicans in Spain; was imprisoned several times for his views; and was in constant demand as a speaker.

This biography documents admirably the major contribution Horner made to trade unionism, and to the creation of a social democratic commonwealth in postwar Britain.

Forward by Eric Hobsbawm
1. Introduction
2. Growing Up
3. The Young Man
4. The Coal Wars: Skirmishes and Manoeuvers
5. The Coal Wars: Battle, Siege, Rout, Retreat
6. Regrouping
7. Trials of Will and Conscience
8.  Watershed
9. The Datcha in the Anthracite
10.  Federation President
11.  Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
12. Fighting the War on two Fronts
13. Winning the War and Saving the Socialist Motherland
Afterword – Hwyel Francis

‘Nina Fishman’s book is, at last, a worthy record of the significant contributions to the working class and the history of twentieth century Britain by a very remarkable man.’

Eric Hobsbawm


‘Arthur Horner was a towering, but also a paradoxical figure – a lifelong Communist and fearless champion of his people, who was also an industrial statesman trusted by employers and governments alike. Nina Fishman’s biography brings him to life, with all his baffling complexities. She combines meticulous scholarship, psychological insight and mastery of the complex economic and political context. In doing so she has filled a major gap in British labour history.’

Professor David Marquand, former Principal, Mansfield College, Oxford


‘Nina Fishman’s biography of Arthur Horner fills an important gap in the history of coal-mining trade unionism in Wales, Britain and internationally. Arthur Horner was one of the outstanding trade union leaders of the twentieth century … the key figure in the creation of the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board in the post-war period. His contribution was a lasting one, much admired by succeeding generations of union leaders. Nina Fishman has faithfully and critically recorded this in rich detail.’

Hywel Francis, MP for Aberavon


‘Had he not insisted on remaining a member of the Communist Party Horner would almost certainly have been a Labour Cabinet Minister and perhaps a chairman of the National Coal Board. In any event he was the most remarkably talented general secretary of the post-war National Union of Mineworkers when that union was at the height of its powers. Professor Nina Fishman’s magnum opus biography of Horner will have lasting status as a classic historic work on this truly giant figure of the British labour movement. It is a superb work of research, analysis and wisdom.’

Geoffrey Goodman