This project is part of a PhD studentship I commenced at Swansea University in the autumn of 2012, under the expert supervision of Professor Louise Miskell and Professor Martin Johnes. The thesis was submitted in 2015 and I was fortunate to have wonderful and insightful examiners in the form of Professor Arthur McIvor and Dr Christoph Lauch. The focus of my PhD research was the town of Port Talbot, its steelworks and its employees in the post-war era. The chronology of my study encompassed the period from 1951 to 1988, both of which are significant dates in the history of the industry and the locality: 1951 saw the opening of Port Talbot’s Abbey Steelworks (the largest steelworks in Europe at that time) and 1988 was the year the Thatcher government chose to fully privatise the British steel industry after twenty years of public ownership. Throughout the course of these four decades, Port Talbot asserted itself as one of the most important centres for steel manufacture in Britain – a legacy that continues to this day.
Despite the town’s indisputable industrial importance, there are few historical studies of Port Talbot’s recent history and its inextricable relationship with the steel industry. My research, therefore, hoped to redress this historical imbalance by providing a comprehensive history of the Port Talbot steel industry during this crucial period of its development. However, whereas other histories of the British steel industry have focused on the industry’s economic or technical development, my history aimed to be a primarily social history, with the steelworkers themselves at the forefront of the narrative. Much of my research, therefore, utilised oral history techniques in an attempt to investigate Port Talbot’s steel industry through the voices and experiences of those who worked in it.